Campaigners fighting a planned shake up of hospital services are being given a further chance to have their say.

The Central Sussex Partnership Programme is in the process of drawing up detailed proposals to reorganise facilities at Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

The proposals could see the hospital's casualty department axed and patients sent to Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton instead.

About 40 people, including patients, carers, voluntary groups and organisations, local councillors and representatives from trusts and the NHS have been invited to join a new group to discuss the next step.

The proposals to transfer services caused a storm of protest in Mid Sussex when first announced earlier this year with many people warning the extra miles patients would have to travel could mean the difference between life or death.

More than 17,000 people signed an Argus petition against the plans and a further 30,000 signed one organised by the Princess Royal Action Group.

The partnership programme board says the changes are vital if a full, modern and efficent service is to be provided for thousands of patients in the central Sussex area.

Members say they recognise the depths of people's feelings and want them to be involved throughout the planning process.

The programme has called on independent Sussex-based facilitators Bob Sang and Martin Leith to set up the group.

Both men have extensive national experience of involving local people in having a say about how public services are run.

Mr Sang said: "I am genuinely looking forward to working with local people in central Sussex and enabling the openness and communication that will be needed to reach difficult decisions that will carry the respect of everyone."

Programme director June Dales said: "This is a totally new approach to involving local people in planning local services.

"We want genuine participation. This is not just a process paying lip service to local people's concerns."

The meeting takes place in Burgess Hill on Thursdsay (dec 8).