THE start of building work on a Specialist and Critical Care Centre (SCCC) for Gwent is still two years away - and construction will not be finished until December 2018.

The basic timetable is included in an Aneurin Bevan Health Board update on the multi-million pound project, the outline business case for which was approved in October by health minister Professor Mark Drakeford.

The £242m hospital, which will treat Gwent's sickest patients, is the centrepiece of the board's longstanding Clinical Futures programme of hospital services modernisdation, and a vital component of plans to reorganise key services such as A&E and inpatient paediatrics, across South Wales.

The next stage of the development of the 450-bed project will be a full business case, which will go into final and minute detail on how the centre will be built.

The preparation of the full business case will begin in January, and the intention is that it be ready for submission to the Welsh Government in September 2015.

A key part of the work on the full business case will be a 10-month period of what the health board report calls "user consultation."

This will involve staff and patients' groups, with the aim of ensuring that the building specification "fully meets professional and user requirements in the future."

Funding of £14.4m has been approved for fees and work costs connected to the preparation of the full business case, and for a package of preparation works at the SCCC site, the former Llanfrechfa Grange Hospital site, near Cwmbran.

The SCCC will consolidate specialist services in the region and will include a trauma and emergency assessment centre, specialist cardiac, radiology and stroke services, critical care, an obstetrics unit, emergency and complex gynaecology, and specialist paediatric emergency and inpatient care.

The ultimate aim is for the centre to be fully operational by mid-2019.

But that depends on the timely submission of the full business case and its approval by the Welsh Government no later than December 2015, so building work can begin the following month.

That would mean a decision would be required from Cardiff Bay within three months.

Health chiefs will be hoping that there are no further delays, and that the 10-month gap between the submission of the outline business case for the SCCC, and its approval, will not be repeated.