"People fear change but we have been planning this idea for about three years. Anyone who is anxious must make their views known as we are listening."
That was the message from one of the doctors from the county’s mental health trust after proposals to relocate patients were condemned last week.
Beds currently based at wards in Chichester could be moved to Worthing and Crawley if the go ahead is given to plans, which form part of a review by the county’s mental health trust and clinical commissioning groups.
In a joint statement in February, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups said they were considering ways to improve mental health services for adults and older people in West Sussex. As part of that work, the county must also comply with national guidance on eliminating mixed sex wards. Read more here
Speaking this week, Dr Brian Solts, said: "The agenda, which we have to follow, is about creating single sex wards which are fit for purpose. It's about making best use of what we've got.
"We want to invest, as a trust, in our dementia hubs. All together, the single sex wards will give us the best opportunity to provide fit for purpose wards.
"This does mean some people will have to travel. Female dementia patients are already travelling to Horsham or Worthing. Men in Horsham and Crawley will also be travelling.
"We want to make the transition as bearable and manageable to families as humanly possible. We want to show some action."
The review includes two wards at the Harold Kidd Unit and Oaklands Ward, both in Chichester, one ward at Horsham Hospital, three wards at Langley Green Hospital, Crawley, three wards at Meadowfield Hospital and one ward at The Burrowes – both at the Swandean site in Worthing.
Dr Solts said the Harold Kidd Unit, in particular, was 'too expensive' and made it 'difficult to provide modern mental health services'.
"Obviously the real concern in Chichester is the closure of the Harold Kidd unit," he added.
"The CQC have told us the building is not fit for purpose and it also doesn't belong to us.
"We have had real problems with the number of psychiatrists as well.
"We have been working closely with Sussex Community Trust so that we can improve in physical care. It is a real opportunity.
"The really exciting thing we are doing is the investment in our community services. We want to make sure that the people who really need to get to hospital, do so. That work is already starting."
Have you read?: What mental health support is there for young people in Sussex?
Speaking last week, Ford resident Tracey Horne, 50, who has recently been discharged from the mixed sex Oaklands ward in Graylingwell, said the ward 'helped me survive when I didn’t want to live'.
Tracey, who said the thought of being sent somewhere where no one could see her was 'scary', now fears what repercussions there might be for future patients. Read more here
Responding to these concerns, Dr Solts stressed that the plans have been thoroughly thought through but that no decision has yet been made.
He said: "It's really important to say that this is only a consultation at the moment. I have done a lot of public engagement to make sure everyone who has concerns tells us.
"Of course not everyone agrees with it and I can both sides. The wards will accommodate families, who may not be able to visit until later in the evening.
"It is tough when any family member goes into hospital but we will support them. These relationships are monitored as much as humanly possible."
Consultation ends on October 11.
If you need support, speak to the Samaritans – free and at any time – by calling 116 123. For more information about the Samaritans, visit www.samaritans.org.