Bexhill site is ‘preferred option’ for new mental health campus

Plans to open a state-of-the-art mental health campus in East Sussex could soon go out to public consultation, after proposals got the go ahead from NHS leaders. 

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 11:36 am
A greenfield site close to Bexhill's Wrestwood Road is the preferred option for a new NHS mental health campus (Photo from Google Maps Street View)
A greenfield site close to Bexhill's Wrestwood Road is the preferred option for a new NHS mental health campus (Photo from Google Maps Street View)

Late last month, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s board gave the go ahead to the next stage of a project intended to change the way adult inpatient mental health services are run in East Sussex. 

The project would see the Department of Psychiatry, based at Eastbourne DGH, replaced with a new state-of-the-art facility, which could potentially be expanded to provide all of the county’s inpatient mental health services in a single location.

The programme comes as the trust looks to move away from providing mental health beds in dormitories – a practice the government wants to phase out by March 2024.

Speaking at a board meeting held on Wednesday, May 19, the trust’s chief financial officer Sally Flint said: “We’ve been working really closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement on this and we have successfully completed stages one and two of their assurance process.

“And in the context of the eradicating dormitories programme we have now secured £46.7m to replace the department of psychiatry [at Eastbourne DGH], which would be part of a longer term phased development to re-provide all of the inpatient stock on to a single site.”

“We’ve met with NHS Capital because we needed to give the assurance that one, we could complete the scheme within the level of funding, but also to complete the scheme by March 2024. 

“They were impressed with the work so far and they have ringfenced the money for the trust, but that will be subject to the completion of a successful business case.”

According to the trust, a greenfield site close to Wrestwood Road in Bexhill is being considered as the ‘preferred’ option for the new facility. An alternative site at Amberstone in Hailsham has not yet been taken off the table, however.

Following discussion, the board agreed for the proposals to move forward to the next stage.

As a result, the proposals are expected to be considered by the East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group Governing Body on June 9th and the county council Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on June 10th.

If approved by both, the proposals will go out to consultation before the end of the month.

Currently the Department of Psychiatry provides 54 acute mental health care beds across three wards, as well as crisis services and a “place of safety” where police officers can take people they believe need a mental health assessment.

While it is the largest inpatient facility in East Sussex, its facilities are also dormitory-based.

On top of that, the facility is leased from East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust – the body responsible for both the DGH and Conquest Hospital – and Sussex Partnership has been asked to vacate the premises by 2026.

In a report discussed at the meeting, a NHS spokesman said: “The conclusion of the options appraisal is that new build on a new site is the preferred way forward and that this new building can be accommodated in either Bexhill-on-Sea or Hailsham.

“Bexhill-on-Sea was the preferred site in the options appraisal on the basis that it has a larger, clear site that enables greater flexibility in design and accommodating future phases, it lies between large population centres of Eastbourne and Hastings and is closer to acute hospitals to enable fast transfers for physical care.

“While the Bexhill-on-Sea site is preferred – and discussions with Rother District Council about the potential for its acquisition have been very positive – until the public consultation process and decision on site selection is complete the site will not be able to be acquired by the trust.

“Given the funding condition to complete the Eradicating Dormitories project by March 2024, the Hailsham site has been carried forward into the public consultation as an alternative option.”

The report goes on to state that further due diligence will take place before a final decision is taken on which site is developed.