HEALTH chiefs have drawn up plans for how Gwent’s two current biggest hospitals will be adapted for new roles in treatment and care after the long-awaited Specialist and Critical Care Centre (SCCC) opens in 2019.

The Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall Hospitals will become Local General Hospitals (LGHs), with a range of services, such as critical care, neonatal, paediatric inpatients, and elements of emergency care transferring to the SCCC.

Several years ago, before economic downturn and subsequent recession, it was hoped to replace both hospitals with new-build LGHs.

But the resulting squeeze on NHS capital budgets has meant that, while the SCCC plan, for a hospital to treat Gwent’s sickest patients, will finally go ahead, proposed “new” LGHs for Newport and north Monmouthshire will be housed in the Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall respectively.

A report – part of Aneurin Bevan Health Board’s medium term plan – states that both have “a fundamental part” to play in Gwent’s future hospital network.

They will be intended as the first port of call for the majority of patients requiring hospital care, whether planned or unscheduled, leaving the SCCC to focus on the most serious and complex cases.

Existing buildings at the Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall sites will be re-used where possible, – with limited, essential new-build schemes – although some will face possible demolition.

Though not guaranteed, the health board is assuming that capital costs will be funded by the Welsh Government, and it proposes to begin early the process of securing approval for work on these sites, starting in July 2015, when the full business case for the SCCC is also to be submitted.

But physical alterations to hospital buildings will not begin until after the SCCC is completed. The current estimate for this is late 2019.

It is also estimated that four or five years will be required to complete the revamp and re-organisation of both hospitals, at an estimated cost of about £3.72 million.

In the next few years, work in terms of maintaining them prior to the opening of the SCCC will also impact upon their future roles, and is expected to cost in the region of several millions of pounds.