The accident and emergency department at King George Hospital will remain open "for the foreseeable future", Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has confirmed. 

The department at the Goodmayes hospital was due to close next year as part of a reconfiguration of services.

But now Jeremy Hunt has confirmed it will remain open as expected improvements required in emergency care across Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT) are not expected to take place as quickly as envisaged.

He said: "The NHS locally has always been clear that changes to the A&E service at King George Hospital will not be made until there are further improvements in the quality of emergency care, and when more work has taken place to reduce the need for hospital attendance and give care closer to home.

"Progress is being made in these areas and the Trust's improvement plan as part of our rigorous special measures process reinforces the focus on developing emergency care for local patients.

"This is a priority for the new leadership team at the Trust. However, there is still work to do and we do not expect the Trust to be ready to make the changes for the foreseeable future."

Council leader Keith Prince has told the Guardian the A&E department will definitely not close next year, as a result of the announcement.

He said: "This has told us there is a definite stay of execution. It is fantastic news and I would like to thank Lee for all he has done. 

"It is very clear we're are getting closer to securing the A&E in Redbridge." 

But deputy leader of Redbridge Labour party, Cllr Wes Streeting, labelled the news as a "pre-election stunt that doesn't go far enough". 

He added: "All the Government has announced today is a delay – and only because their local NHS Trust is in crisis. A delayed closure isn’t good enough: it’s time for the Tories to abandon closure plans completely."

It was recently reported that since November 2010 seriously ill or injured children have not been taken by ambulance to the A&E department and transported to Queen's Hospital in Romford.

A Care Quality Commission report last year found A&E patients were being put at risk at both hospitals due to poor care standards.