PLANS for a £30 million extension of a hospital accident and emergency department have been given the go ahead.

Members of Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee approved the proposals for the Royal Sussex County Hospital this afternoon.

The plans include a new 70 bed short stay unit which will care for both surgical and medical patients who need to be admitted to hospital for 48 hours or less.

It will be housed over two floors in an extension of the existing A&E building, above the department’s ambulance and car drop-off area.

The building will stand on columns to allow access for vehicles and pedestrians to the front door of A&E. Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust managing director Evelyn Barker said: “Patient care is our first priority and consideration in everything we do.

“Over the coming years we will be genuinely improving what patients experience when they come to A&E at the Royal Sussex.

“Today’s decision allows us to push ahead with the key to all the planned improvements, our new short stay unit.”

There are also plans for a specialist unit within A&E for patients who can be treated on an outpatient basis.

Ms Barker said: “Perhaps most importantly for patient experience, the short stay unit will streamline how we admit patients and reduce the pressure on other wards in the hospital.

“The extra capacity will make it much easier to get patients to the right bed, in the right department, at the right time.”

Work on the new centre will begin this winter and the facility will open towards the end of 2018.

Alongside the redevelopment of the A&E department, the Royal Sussex is going through a £485 million modernisation programme, due for completion in 2024.