THE six tower cranes that until recently defined the site of the new Grange University Hospital may have been dismantled - but the rooms and corridors of the £350 million project are a hive of activity.

Around 650 people are currently at work at the Llanfrechfa site where for more than two years Aneurin Bevan University Health Board’s flagship specialist and critical care centre has been taking shape.

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But although much of the external work is now complete, there is much still to do to turn its interior into the hospital that will, from spring 2021, treat Gwent’s sickest patients.

The new Grange University Hospital in Llanfrechfa. Picture -

It is not an official opening date yet, but health board chiefs would love to be in a position whereby the Grange University Hospital will take in its first patients on March 1 - St David’s Day - 2021.

Nicola Prygodzicz, the health board’s director of planning, digital and IT, let slip that ambition yesterday, as the South Wales Argus and other media were given a tour of the site.

If that proves accurate, it means there are fewer than 500 days remaining until the biggest new hospital project in Wales - and one of the biggest in the UK - in he 21st Century opens its doors.

By spring 2021, 17 years will have passed since Clinical Futures, the programme for changing the way NHS care and services are delivered in Gwent - and of which the new hospital is the centrepiece - was unveiled.

It was not until autumn 2016 - after years of planning, interrupted by economic downturn and recession - that the go ahead for the hospital was finally secured, and three years on, it continues to take spectacular shape.

The small army of workers beavering away at preparing the hospital for the patients and staff it will host still have months of work ahead of them.

But tantalising glimpses of what awaits are to be found among the dusty, echoing corridors and expanses of exposed wiring and pipes.

A handful of the single rooms, such as the one above, are kitted out as if ready to receive their patients, others are ready but for the specialist furniture required.

Elsewhere, pathology laboratories are being kitted out, assessment bays lie pristine and empty behind their sliding doors, and gleaming nursing stations await their staff.

All of which is part of an ongoing programme of finishing and refinement of all areas of the hospital, to make sure the environment and facilities are as good as they can be for patients and staff.

While Grange University Hospital is the landmark, the most obvious visual emblem of change in the way health services in Gwent are and will be delivered, it is far from the full story.

There will be new roles for the Royal Gwent and Nevill hall Hospitals after the Grange opens, with the former set to be a base for much of the routine surgery provided by the health board, and the latter earmarked, among other things, as a cancer centre.

Both will have 24/7 minor injuries units along with Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr in Ysbyty Mynach, which will also be the focus for breast surgery in Gwent.


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But the hospitals, for all their vital work, are far from the be all and end all when it comes to future healthcare in Gwent.

The aim with all of them is to minimise the need for patients to attend them, and this aim is being pursued by the development of more services provided closer to the communities they serve, at health and wellbeing centres, GP surgeries and in patients' homes.