Bexhill ‘preferred site’ for major new mental health facility

Greenfield land in Bexhill has been named as the “preferred site” for a new state-of-the-art mental health campus facility, to be built as part of a project to change the way adult inpatient mental health services are run in East Sussex.
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The Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust plans to replace the trust’s Department of Psychiatry – currently based at Eastbourne DGH – with a new “state-of-the-art” campus facility.

The trust was considering 17 sites for the project, whittling these down to a shortlist of four: Amberstone in Hailsham, Lottbridge Drove in Eastbourne, the Woodlands Centre at the Conquest Hospital and a greenfield site close to Wrestwood Road in Bexhill.

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The sites were analysed in more depth, but the trust discounted Woodlands because it “could not provide the flexibility needed to achieve the long-term aim of a single campus” and

Lottbridge Drove was discounted because planning and environmental restrictions would have made development “too costly” and take too long to implement.

Tomorrow (Wednesday May 19) the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust board will meet to discuss the plans further.

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.

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While it is the largest inpatient facility in East Sussex, its facilities are also dormitory-based – a practice the government wants to phase out by March 2024.

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.

A report, to be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting, 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.

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“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.”

A 12-week public consultation is expected to be launched shortly.