West Sussex could be left with only one major hospital

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has expressed dismay that West Sussex Primary Care Trust (PCT) is taking forward the reconfiguration of acute hospitals in West Sussex based on the assumption that only one major general hospital will be sustainable in the county.


The plans were revealed at a board meeting of the newly-formed PCT, which was held in public, on Thursday (30 November) in Horsham.

Updating members of the Board, John Wilderspin, the Chief Executive of the PCT, stated that, while options were still up for discussion and no decisions had been made, the PCT was working on the assumption that only one major general hospital, with an A&E department on site, is sustainable in West Sussex. 

Mr Wilderspin went on to explain that the PCT envisaged the development of Brighton and Portsmouth as so-called critical care hospitals for specialist work, with Redhill serving much of Surrey and North Sussex as a major general hospital.

Maternity services across the county are also due for major reconfiguration, with the PCT suggesting that only three main maternity units are clinically sustainable across Sussex.  Current thinking would see one based at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, one either at St Richards or Worthing and one in East Sussex.

The PCT's proposals are particularly bad news for the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Haywards Heath.  The Trust estimated that only 84 per cent of the West Sussex PCT's population could reach A&E at the PRH within 40 minutes in an ambulance if this was the only major general hospital in West Sussex, whereas the figures for St Richard's would be 100 per cent or Worthing Hospital 99 per cent.

The PCT also said that major maternity units should be co-located with major A&E departments.  It has therefore become clear, if there was to be only one major general hospital in West Sussex, that the PRH would be the Trust's least preferred option, with the final choice being between St Richard's and Worthing Hospitals.

The presentation to the Board will confirm the worst fears of local people who have protested against hospital closures.  So far over 25,000 people have attended campaign events, and nearly a quarter of a million people - 1 in 3 of the West Sussex population - have signed petitions in support of their local acute hospitals.

Further campaign events are planned for the weekend of 9 and 10 December, with 24 hour vigils taking place at the Princess Royal Hospital and at the Worthing & Southlands Hospitals.

The PCT has delayed publication of a formal consultation document on healthcare reconfiguration until the New Year.

Nick Herbert commented: "Going down from three to one major hospital in West Sussex would be better than losing all of them, which was originally on the cards, but this news will still upset local people who are worried about having to make far longer journeys for their care.

"The Trust has still not answered the key question of where the tens of thousands of patients who currently attend A&E departments will be treated if there is only one hospital in West Sussex.  What plans are there to expand local healthcare provision to meet the current demand, and how much would this cost?  How would hospitals like Brighton cope with the additional pressure?"

Mr Herbert added: "I urge local people to continue to support the campaigns for all three hospitals.  We must stand together and not allow one hospital to be pitched against another."


Alexander Black