Plans to reshape acute services in Surrey and Sussex will not be revealed until after Christmas amid claims that current plans will not save enough money to bring local health economies back into balance.
Local primary care trusts have announced that consultation on the controversial proposals - which could include closures - will be delayed again. The process was originally scheduled for this autumn, then slipped to December, and is now set for new year. If the process starts in January, it may not be complete before the May local elections, and a decision is unlikely before late summer.
Worthing East and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton said: 'They [the trust] are putting it off because they can't get their projections to add up.' The Surrey and Sussex health economy had an underlying deficit of£100m in 2004-05, which could reach£350m by 2009-10 if no action is taken. Around£300m a year in costs needs to be cut to get back into balance.
The proposals are expected to include major changes to either Worthing or St Richard's Hospital, in Chichester, and significant service reductions at Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford.
Surrey PCT recently indicated that closure of one hospital was being considered - but it is not known whether this will be among options for consultation.
The five Surrey and Sussex PCTs said the delay would allow 'time to listen before finalising proposals'.