Emergency brain and spinal surgery is to move from Hurstwood Park in Haywards Heath before next Easter on the recommendations of a senior NHS director.
James Palmer, medical director for specialised services for NHS England, recommends re-locating the service to Brighton after reviewing the model of care for major trauma provided by Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH).
Staff at Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre where brain and spinal surgery is carried out on the Princess Royal Hospital campus, were briefed by their chief executive, Matthew Kershaw, last Tuesday and some are understood to be unhappy about transferring to Brighton.
Public relations director for the trust, Rachel Clinton, said: “We are planning the move before Easter - it’s a challenging timescale but that is what we are aiming for.”
The move from the historic Haywards Heath site that was originally built in 1938 as a psychiatric admissions unit, has been planned for some time but is being accelerated to enable the Royal Sussex County Hospital to develop as a 24/7 major trauma centre.
At the moment, patients with multiple injuries that include brain injuries are flown to London because the Brighton based hospital does not provide emergency brain and spinal surgery alongside other front-line services that include renal, heart and vascular specialists.
Referring to Mr Palmer’s recently published report, Matthew Kershaw stressed: “This review was not undertaken due to concerns over the quality of care but because the way the services are currently organised involves critically ill patients moving between our two hospital sites.
“Major trauma patients who sustain head and body injuries are being taken by air ambulance to other centres rather than their closest major trauma centre in Brighton. For example, in May a motorcyclist who was seriously injured on Church Road in Hove, less than three miles from the Royal Sussex County Hospital, was airlifted to King’s College Hospital in London over 50 miles away.”
The trust is waiting for the Government to sign-off funding for a multi-million pound project to redevelop the Victorian part of the Royal Sussex County Hospital to provide a helicopter-pad, a neurosciences unit, new wards and a larger A&E department.
However, the move from Hurstwood Park will come before that happens in order to keep the trauma centre viable as a multi-disciplinary emergency hub.
Under the shake-up, elective or planned spinal surgery will move to the Sussex Orthopaedic Centre, a modern, purpose built unit carrying out hip replacements and other procedures on the Princess Royal campus.
In order to create bed and theatre space for emergency brain surgery in Brighton, some bone surgery will move up to the Princess Royal.
Mr Kershaw said:“We will continue to talk to and work closely with all the staff affected in order to conclude the necessary moves and changes as soon as possible.”
Hurstwood Park, although handicapped by its ageing buildings, has a special place in the hearts of Mid Sussex residents who fought a successful battle in the 1990s to keep brain surgery from moving to London.