On Thursday (December 2), the East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) endorsed the final form of proposals to replace the Department of Psychiatry, based at Eastbourne DGH, with a new inpatient facility in Bexhill.
The new 54-bed facility is set to be built near Mount View Street in Bexhill by March 2024, at a cost of around £46 million.
The proposals come from both the East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group and Sussex Partnership Foundation NHS Trust (SPFT), with their respective governing bodies having already approved the plans.
In a statement released after the meeting, SPFT chief executive Sam Allen said: “Working together with our partners, we set out to involve as many people as possible — especially people who use the services and those who care for them — in our proposals.
“The proposals have been almost universally supported by those who took part in the consultation and, given this, we are confident that this is the best way forward for the people of East Sussex.
“We are also delighted that our long-term plans to create a centre of excellence for mental health services on one site in the future were also given strong support. This plan will go hand-in-hand with improvements to community mental health services to help people stay in their own homes rather than go to hospital.”
The new facility comes as part of a national push to move away from providing mental health beds in dormitories — a practice the government wants to phase out by March 2024.
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, the trust responsible for mental health services, has been asked to vacate the premises by 2026.
Dr David Warden, clinical chair of the East Sussex CCG governing body, said: “Our plan to build a new hospital in Bexhill enables us to remove out-dated dormitory accommodation at the Department of Psychiatry and replace it with individual bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms for all our patients.”
He added: “This means that people with serious mental health problems will receive high-quality care in modern and safe accommodation which preserves their privacy and dignity and provides the best therapeutic environment.”
While the initial proposals are only for a replacement of the Department of Psychiatry, the early business case for the proposals says the facility could potentially be expanded at a later date in order to provide a single inpatient facility for all of East Sussex.
HOSC first endorsed the plans earlier this year after a review process, but also made a number of recommendations on how the plans should proceed.
These included a call for the CCG and SPFT to work with NHS England to ensure there are funding plans in place should a change in the market affect the viability of the project.
HOSC also called on the partners to develop a design that takes advantage of modern methods of construction and to begin that construction as soon as practically possible, once a final site is agreed.
Other recommendations focused on transport links both for patients and family and for patients transferring between sites. As part of this, the committee recommended the CCG and SPFT arrange for a new bus stop to serve the facility.
The committee also asked for the Urgent Care Lounge at the Department of Psychiatry to be replaced with a similar facility at the Eastbourne DGH when the wider department closes.