Talks are still being held over the future of a new hospital for patients in Hartlepool and East Durham.
But North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Alan Foster says a new facility is not expected in the near future.
Mr Foster says the trust “haven’t given up” on hopes to secure funding for a new hospital - but admits plans for the development in Wynyard remain on hold indefinitely.
He still believes replacing the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton and the University Hospital of Hartlepool with one new site in Wynyard is the “best thing to do” for the future.
Mr Foster says the trust “hasn’t given up” on a new development in Wynyard - despite selling the land back to the developer earlier this year.
And he says if financing for the scheme became available, there is plenty more land that could be developed over at Wynyard, which he describes as central to the population the trust serves.
“We are still having high-level discussions, and we haven’t given up on it,” said Mr Foster.
“We still think it’s the best thing to do. At some point, there will be a new hospital. There will have to be.
“It needs to be up in that area because geographically, it’s at the centre of the population we serve.”
But, Mr Foster admitted securing the £300m needed for a new hospital is highly unlikely in the short term.
And the plans - although “still in the background” after about £8m was spent trying to get the scheme off the ground - are no longer a priority.
Instead, the trust is looking to secure £50m to upgrade existing facilities at its Stockton hospital instead.
“I have to say that given the Government is committed to austerity for the next five years, and with the £20bn the NHS has to save, I will be surprised if we are going to get it through in the short term,” he said.
“The plans for a new hospital will stay in the background. But how long we are going to have to wait, I don’t know.
“The priority now is to get funding for the Stockton site. We are planning the work this year and hoping to do it in 2016.”
Mr Foster the hospital effectively needs a “rewire,” new boiler and water supply maintenance.
He said: “We don’t know how long it will take because it depends how we can do it with minimum disruption to patients.
“We know if we have got to stay here longer, we’ve got to do this work and we need the public to understand that that work needs to be done and there will be some disruption when we start doing it and patients may not see a lot at the end of it.
“But we will make sure - we have to make sure - we will continue to meet all the standards set and provide a safe service.”