A MINIMUM £2.7 million of capital funding is likely to be required next year to improve the emergency department at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

But an Aneurin Bevan University Health Board report warns that the financial demands for this and other key improvement and upgrading schemes for the hospital, are key contributors to what will prove to be a multi-million pound shortfall in such funding during the next four to five years.

The Royal Gwent’s emergency department is in urgent need of an overhaul to improve the environment and the system of patient “flow” into, through, and out of the department.

It also needs to be expanded to cater for changes in services.

The £2.7 million is an estimate included in the board’s Discretionary Capital Projects programme for 2015/16 – £300,000 is earmarked for the work to finally begin this year.

All health boards in Wales receive an annual sum to spend on projects such as statutory maintenance, fire safety and equipment replacement.

The above scheme and others fall into the Discretionary Capital Projects category, including other key schemes such as, this year, hospital ward upgrading, improvements to the Royal Gwent’s main entrance, and car park management at hospitals across Gwent.

But a little over £1m remains in the this budget for 2014/15, insufficient to fund all the projects the health board considers as a priority, and next year could prove even more difficult.

Along with the Royal Gwent hospital’s emergency department, an estimated £1m is earmarked in 2015/16 for vital work on the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, and a further £850,000 for the maternity department.

With £475,000 already set aside for the likes of statutory maintenance, fire safety work, and imaging and X-ray tube replacement, and £500,000 reserved for contingencies, just £251,000 remains available to fund other projects across the whole of Gwent.

Extra funding is sometimes made available for specific projects by the Welsh Government, but it cannot be assumed that this will materialise.

To 2018/19, the health board estimates that Discretionary Capital Project funding will be almost £50 million underfunded, based on a look ahead at what issues need, or might need to be, addressed by then.

The board is trying to assess what the risks are if some projects are not prioritised, so contingency plans can be drawn up.