BUILDING work on Gwent’s £350 million Grange University Hospital – a project that nearly did not get the go-ahead – has now reached its highest point.

Twenty months ago, health minister Vaughan Gething sunk the symbolic first spade into the ground at the site at Llanfrechfa, near Cwmbran.

And on Monday he returned to take part in a topping out ceremony four storeys up, in a building that is reshaping the landscape geographically, and set to transform it in terms of healthcare for patients in Gwent and south Powys. It is almost two-and-a-half years since Mr Gething said that the Welsh Government would invest £350m into the project.

And he told his audience at the ceremony – including AMs, health board chiefs and staff, and executives and site staff for project partners Laing O’Rourke and Gleeds – that it “nearly didn’t happen”. “On my appointment (in May 2016) I had serious discussions about whether this project would actually go ahead.

"It was a difficult conversation with (Welsh Government) colleagues about that choice, but ultimately it was the right thing to do – to invest £350m into not only an excellent building, but a new health and care facility to change the way healthcare is delivered in Gwent and across south Wales.”

Mr Gething praised the health board, Laing O’Rourke, Gleeds, and Torfaen council for a positive partnership approach to an ambitious project which has had strong support from politicians and public.

The hospital is on schedule and set to open to patients in spring 2021. It will provide complex specialist and critical care treatment and will include a 24-hour acute assessment unit and emergency department, a broad range of diagnostic services, operating theatres, and a consultant-led obstetric unit.

It will also have a dedicated paediatric assessment unit, and will be a base for neonatal intensive care.

Health board chief executive Judith Paget called the Grange University Hospital a key piece of Clinical Futures programme that is reshaping hospital, primary, community and mental health services across Gwent. “It has stood the test of time and we continue to make sure service models are up to date, “ she said.

“The Grange is a vital part of the programme, and so many people have contributed to making this happen.”

She said the health board had been “very lucky” to have had Mr Gething’s support in getting the project off the ground.

“To commit £350m of Welsh capital funding to a project like this was a very important decision, not just for Gwent. but for Wales.”