A TRUST boss insists the quality and safety of her hospitals is high and judicial challenges to Lewisham Hospital service changes will not derail her plans.

Under proposals agreed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Queen Elizabeth will merge with Lewisham into one trust, Queen Mary's in Sidcup will become an Oxleas-run health campus and King's will take over Farnborough's the PRUH.

Caroline Taylor has taken on the trust special administrator role at the financially-crippled South London Healthcare Trust, steering it through the changes.

Legal challenges, due in July, have been launched against the downgrade of Lewisham's A&E but Ms Taylor said the trust is still on course to be dissolved on October 1.

She said: "While we're waiting for the judicial review to happen we're continuing to plan for the changes on the basis of the Secretary of State's directions. Clearly, we won't do anything that's irrevocable and that relates to the issues being challenged."

Meanwhile, she insisted the trust's hospitals were safe and improving, but admitted that patients were sometimes waiting too long for treatment.

The hospital currently sees 90.6 per cent of patients within four hours, 4.4 per cent below national targets.

She said: "That's a mix of things. It's partly about some of our procedures in A&E it's partly about beds available.

Ms Taylor, who estimated Queen Elizabeth Hospital in particular needed another 20 beds, added: "We've got to start planning people's discharge as soon as they arrive in hospital.

"We should be thinking about how they're going to go home as soon as they arrive."

The trust changes are based on proposals drawn up by predecessor Matthew Kershaw, and she backed them, saying: "I do understand that people worry about travelling further for services and I do understand  that, even when people recognise the case for fewer, larger centres, they'd always like those centres to be close to them.

"If you have to travel a little bit further to get a better service when you arrive, that's definitely worth it."

Some staff will leave on voluntary redundancy at the end of June but she said the numbers should not be "overstated" with vacancies being held to minimise compulsory staff loss.

Since leaving Croydon's PCT, questions have been raised by a committee about a £28m black hole in that trust's accounts.

But she insisted: "There was an investigation conducted by NHS London which reported about a year ago now and I was interviewed as part of that investigation and I told them everything they wanted to know and everything I know about the finances in Croydon.

"I don't think I've got anything to add to what I've said at that time."