Gwent care centre set for Llanfrechfa Grange, near Cwmbran, now delayed until 2020
10:05am Thursday 10th October 2013 in Pontypool news
GWENT’S long-awaited Specialist and Critical Care Centre (SCCC) will not be open until 2020 “at the earliest” according to an Aneurin Bevan Health Board report.
And ongoing delay over a decision from the Welsh Government on an outline business case for the £270 million project is having a knock-on effect on the health board’s other plans for services – and hospital buildings – in the run-up to the SCCC opening.
The naming in the report of 2020 as a best case scenario for the opening of the centre, earmarked for the former Llanfrechfa Grange Hospital, near Cwmbran, is the first public acknowledgement of its completion being pushed back a year or more.
Three-and-a-half years ago, after a lengthy postponement of planning work on the project and a root and branch review, then health minister Edwina Hart reaffirmed its future in a letter to AMs.
It was predicted then the centre would be treating its first patients by the end of 2016/17. And when the health board submitted its outline business case for the SCCC to the Welsh Government last December, it was hoped with a speedy decision and a straightforward construction, patients would be going through its doors by June 2017.
But a quick decision was not forthcoming and in the spring, current health minister Professor Mark Drakeford announced a decision on the outline business case would not be made until after hospital services reorganisation proposals for South Wales had been settled, as he considered it would be wrong to pre-empt these. By May, mid-2018 was being offered as a tentative opening date.
Decisions were due to be made on the South Wales services proposals this month, but were delayed while more than 60,000 consultation responses were analysed.
NHS Wales chief executive David Sissling said last week that decisions on these proposals are likely in November. A decision on the SCCC should follow soon after.
In the meantime, Gwent health bosses are trying to plan services and spending on existing hospital buildings for the years leading up to the SCCC’s completion, a task made harder by the difficulty in maintaining some services on two sites – the Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall.
“Continued uncertainty regarding the approval of the SCCC,” states the health board’s report, is “significantly hindering efficient service and estate planning in the interim”.
Aside from potential funding for the SCCC, the only other source of capital funding available to the health board during the next three years will be annual discretionary capital of almost £5.7 million a year.
Health board chiefs have been prioritising projects that would have to draw on that money, in the context of the plans for the SCCC, but initial forecasts based on the needs of its divisions indicate an overspend of almost £5.3 million over three years.