Hospital buildings on the open market

The Harness Block and peripheral buildings at Southlands Hospital are now on the open market
The Harness Block and peripheral buildings at Southlands Hospital are now on the open market

A BID to save the Harness Block at Southlands Hospital for health services appears to have failed.

The disposal of the block, the former in-patient building on the Upper Shoreham Road site, has now moved to the next stage.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said on Tuesday it had become clear there was no realistic prospect of the building being used to provide publicly-funded health or social care for local people.

The move comes 18 months after the beginning of the search for such a buyer, and means the Harness Block building and land immediately surrounding it will now be made available on the open market.

The board received one expression of interest from a privately-backed group to use the site for health-related purposes.

Had the priority purchaser bid succeeded, the group would have been allowed to complete the purchase without competing on the open market. However, board members said they did not receive assurances the proposal would indeed benefit NHS patients, and so could not permit the group to be a priority purchaser.

Spencer Prosser, director of finance, said: “We have gone to great lengths to find out whether the Harness Block could be used by another public body, to deliver health or social care.

“Regrettably, it has become clear that there is no realistic prospect of that objective being achieved.

“Our focus has been to find someone who could use the building to benefit NHS patients in the area, but if that objective cannot be achieved then we have a duty to the community to complete the sale of the land and to use all of the proceeds to upgrade and improve Southlands Hospital.”

All proceeds from the sale will be invested in improving services and facilities for patients at Southlands Hospital, where the trust has retained the majority of the land.

The trust said the hospital continued to be used by thousands of people every week.

Mr Prosser added: “We have always said that the proceeds of a sale would be ring-fenced, and be used to invest in the majority of the Southlands site that remains as part of our Trust. That commitment remains.”

The bidding group can still pursue its interest, and the trust remains in contact to establish whether there are other options on the site.