Accident and emergency care in St Richard’s could be given a boost if a special new status is granted.
The hospital’s department is in the running to be designated as a trauma unit, meaning better facilities for tackling broken bones or vascular injuries.
The Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust has confirmed it has applied for both St Richard’s and Worthing to take on the new ranking as part of a national overhaul of major trauma care to improve the treatment of people seriously injured in car crashes or other accidents.
Phillip Barnes, the trust’s medical director, said: “There is a national plan to have a number of trauma centres which will serve a population of between two and three million each.”
The centres, which will house specialist units like brain surgery and advanced orthopaedics, will be spread out throughout the UK, and any hospital which has more than a 45-minute drive to the nearest centre can apply for special trauma unit status.
St Richard’s nearest centres will be at Brighton and Southampton from 2012.
“Hastings and Chichester are more than 45 minutes from the trauma centre, so there is a larger reason for saying there should be trauma units there,” said Dr Barnes.
He allayed fears the new status could affect the day-to-day running of the hospitals’ accident and emergency departments.
“One of the medical colleges has made the unhelpful comment that if you are not a trauma unit, you wouldn’t be able to be a properly-functioning A&E department.
“What we don’t want is a situation where we are unable to maintain our A&Es.
“We are committed to making sure our local population have adequate cover,”
Marianne Griffiths, the board’s chief executive, confirmed the trust had put in a bid for both Worthing and Chichester to become trauma centres, but said it was not yet certain whether they would meet the criteria. “We don’t want even a whiff of a downgrading decision to happen,” she said.