Location for new East Sussex mental health campus is revealed by NHS

Councillors are set to make a final decision on whether to back plans to create a state-of-the-art mental health campus in East Sussex.

Services are set to move out of Eastbourne DGH and to a new mental health campus in Bexhill
Services are set to move out of Eastbourne DGH and to a new mental health campus in Bexhill

On Thursday (December 2), the East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) is to debate giving the sign off to the final form of proposals to replace the Department of Psychiatry, based at Eastbourne DGH, with a new inpatient facility in Bexhill.

The committee will be asked to consider whether the plans are in the best interest of the health service in East Sussex and, if not, whether to refer the matter to the Secretary of State.

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The proposals, which come from both the East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group and Sussex Partnership Foundation NHS Trust (SPFT), were endorsed by HOSC at a meeting earlier this year. 

This endorsement was made before the NHS confirmed it would be proceeding with development of its preferred option, a greenfield site close to Wrestwood Road in Bexhill.

While HOSC endorsed the plans, it 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.

The proposals come as part of a 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.

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.