A struggling hospital in North Yorkshire has revealed it is planning a merger with a neighbouring NHS trust.
Scarborough Hospital, which has been dogged by financial and care quality concerns, said it had approached York Hospital over a possible partnership.
The move has been prompted by the government's desire for all hospitals to become foundation trusts by 2013.
Scarborough said it would not make the grade without the help of York, which was granted foundation status in 2007.
Scarborough Hospital has debts of £4m and was criticised by regulators earlier this month because of concerns over the standard of its care.
A spokesman for the Scarborough and North East Yorkshire NHS Trust said: "To become a foundation trust, hospital trusts are required to meet certain clinical and financial standards which make them fit for a long-term future.
"The requirement to reach foundation trust status by 2013 places us in a difficult position as we are unlikely to meet the tests required to become a stand-alone foundation trust.
"Lack of foundation trust status would impact on our ability to deliver certainty to our clinical services provision and staff on all our sites."
At its meeting on Tuesday, the board considered options for the future in order to secure clinically and financially sustainable services for Scarborough and the surrounding areas, "within the context of a difficult financial climate and changing health policy".
It said it had decided to approach the York Hospital Foundation Trust "to explore the potential for a partnership".
Patrick Crowley, chief executive of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: "To become a foundation trust, hospital trusts are required to meet certain clinical and financial standards, which make them fit for a long-term future as an independent organisation working within the context of the NHS.
"We and Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust have been working closely with NHS Yorkshire and the Humber and other health partners over the last few months to determine how this can be achieved for Scarborough."
He said the York trust had not yet formally responded to the approach by the Scarborough board.
"All partners are hopeful that we can continue the alliances and partnerships already developed to provide health services for this population," Mr Crowley added.