Emergency stroke unit set to close in NHS shake-up

Princess Royal Hospital accident and emergency a+e, Haywards Heath. Pic Steve Robards  SR1606934 SUS-160229-175052001
Princess Royal Hospital accident and emergency a+e, Haywards Heath. Pic Steve Robards SR1606934 SUS-160229-175052001

A specialist emergency stroke unit in Haywards Heath is facing closure because of a planned health service shake-up.

The unit in the Princess Royal Hospital currently treats emergency stroke patients from across north Sussex but officials are proposing to shut it down and create a centralised ‘hyper-acute’ unit at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

If the go-ahead is given for the new unit, local stroke victims will face longer journeys to get treatment, but health officials say they will receive faster and better care once there.

The ambulance service says all patients in the area would be able to reach the Royal Sussex County Hospital within 45 minutes, with most journeys taking less than half an hour.

And health officials say patients would be seen more quickly on arrival and the hyper-acute unit would have more staff working round the clock, seven days a week with state-of-the art equipment. It is proposed to increase staffing levels by 15 per cent.

Meanwhile, all emergency stroke victims in Mid Sussex have, in fact, been diverted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton since February because of a lack of staff at the Princess Royal.

Jacqui Nettleton, spokesman for the NHS Crawley Clinical Commissioning Group and Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning group said: “To ensure that current patients are receiving the best possible quality of care after a stroke and due to current patient and staffing levels at the Princess Royal, there has been a divert for all emergency stroke patients to be taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, since February 2016. The service is currently utilising 27 stroke beds at the RSCH site.”

If the plans for the hyper-acute unit do go ahead, rehabilitation care at the Princess Royal would not be affected as it is only ‘emergency’ cases that would go to Brighton.

The Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group, and the Crawley Clinical Commissioning Group - responsible for planning and paying for healthcare - are currently seeking views from the public on the proposed changes.

A decision is expected to be made by next March and - if approval for the new Brighton unit goes ahead - it is expected to open within 12 months.