A hospital trust said last night it expected to axe up to 250 jobs in an attempt to reduce workforce costs.

East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which has a £5 million deficit despite breaking even last year, said it did not anticipate redundancies if other measures were successful, but that this option would be kept "under review".

Instead, the trust said it hoped to make "necessary savings" through the review and scrutiny of vacant posts, continued restrictions in the use of expensive agency staff introduced last year, tight controls on the use of other temporary staff and closer scrutiny of all proposed new posts.

Kim Hodgson, chief executive of the trust, added: "We cannot ignore the difficult financial position across the NHS locally, however, we recognise that this is difficult news for our staff.

"We are concerned to mini-mise the effect on our committed, permanent staff who provide such an excellent service and we fully expect to make these savings without redundancies.

"We also recognise that the measures we plan to take will add to the pressures on us all, but this is preferable to large-scale redundancies."

East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust runs Conquest Hospital in Hastings and Eastbourne District General Hospital.