A health boss has apologised for the handling of a proposed ward closure at Bishop Auckland Hospital.
County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said in October they were consulting on the closure of a recuperation ward.
Appearing before Durham County Council, trust executive director Carole Langrick apologised for "causing an unnecessary level of concern".
She said the 24-bed ward six would stay open while its future is considered.
Ms Langrick told the council's Wellbeing and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee: "We acknowledge that this process was not managed as well as it could have been and that our language was loose.
"It was not a good context for the staff dialogue and it caused an unnecessary level of concern.
"We have extended the dialogue period with staff and it still goes on."
John Robinson, the committee's chairman, asked for an assurance the ward would not close "until all options have been determined", the Local Democracy Reporting Service reported.
Ms Langrick replied: "Absolutely."
Ward Six is run as a step down ward for patients who are not ready to go home but don't need the full services of an acute hospital.
Coundon councillor Charlie Kay said he "guaranteed" the Department of Health would be asked to intervene if the trust suggested the ward should be closed after the consultation.
The committee is due to meet in January to hear an update on plans for the hospital.