ALMOST ten years after the idea was first put forward, planning permission is being sought for a 450-bed Specialist and Critical Care Centre for Gwent.

The centre – latest estimated cost £270m – is shown with the Grade II-listed Llanfrechfa Grange in the background, in this striking image accompanying Aneurin Bevan Health Board’s application for outline planning permission for the project.

If this vital planning hurdle is cleared – a decision by Torfaen council is likely during the autumn – the hospital will be a huge step nearer being built on 61 acres of the old Llanfrechfa Grange Hospital site, near Cwmbran.

An outline business case for this centrepiece of hospital services modernisation in Gwent will be submitted to the Welsh Government in December.

But the start of the formal planning process is a significant milestone for a project first mooted in 2003, but delayed by economic downturn and subsequent scaling down of NHS Wales budgets.

Intended as a hospital to treat Gwent’s sickest patients, it will comprise five key sections:

● Emergency assessment unit – for serious or complex emergencies, and including a diagnostic and treatment unit for emergencies and inpatients;

● Critical care and theatres – to include a coronary care unit, and emergency and elective theatres with some day surgery;

● Maternity and children’s hospital – a distinct but integrated unit providing a consultant- led delivery unit, maternity inpatient beds, and specialist children’s services;

● Adult inpatient unit – with acute emergency and complex elective adult inpatient wards, and associated therapies;

● Outpatient clinics, day care treatments and a cancer centre.

The planning application proposes 50,000 square metres of floor space to house the above, along with an energy centre compound, and, potentially, a 2,000 square metre sterilisation and disinfection unit for dealing with the consequences of incidents such as those involving chemicals.

A helicopter landing pad is also planned, for air ambulance cases to be flown to within yards of the hospital.

In May, an exhibition of the latest proposals for the hospital, at Llanfrechfa Grange, attracted more than 200 visitors.

Another exhibition, again in the main recreation hall at Llanfrechfa Grange, will take place from Wednesday to Friday, August 15 – 17, 5pm – 7pm, and on Saturday, August 18, 10am – 1pm.

COMMENT: Major step forward

IT IS hard to believe that we have been talking about the development of a major new hospital for Gwent for almost 10 years.

So the fact that planning permission is now being sought for a 450-bed Specialist and Critical Care Centre for Gwent is a major step forward.

It was way back in 2003 when it was first suggested that centralising some key services in one purpose-built centre was essential to the modernisation of our local health services.

The health bosses locally may have won the argument for their ambitious plan.

But what followed was a series of twists, turns and major hurdles The original £295m project was sent back to the drawing board by a National Assembly facing a financial squeeze on NHS budgets, causing a headache for the authors of the plan.

But the proposal also stirred a major political and economic debate, particularly in Newport, where for many the idea of moving the hospital out of Newport was deemed a step too far.

Today we print the first images of the proposed £270m hospital.

If the planning hurdle is cleared this is a major step forward.

However it is unlikely to be the end of the debate.

The proposed centralisation of some services on this one site will undoubtedly lead to controversy down the line.