GWENT patients needing foot and ankle treatment will in future be directed to the area's newest hospital, where a centre of excellence is being set up.

All outpatient and surgical services relating to feet and ankles are now being provided in a unit at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr, at Ystrad Mynach.

The idea is that patients will benefit from the development of a one-stop shop, where as many parts of treatment as possible will be carried out in one visit.

The unit has state-of-the-art technology including MRI and CT scanning, and portable ultrasound machines to help diagnose and treat foot and ankle problems.

Sophisticated equipment such as a dynamic pedobarograph will assess the outcomes of surgery, and a digital mini image intensifier will also be available in the operating theatres.

The unit, like the rest of the hospital, boasts single, en-suite rooms for all patients, facilities not currently available for orthopaedic patients in any other NHS hospital in Wales - and very few such specialist centres exist in the UK.

“This is an extremely exciting opportunity for foot and ankle services," said Mr Kartik Hariharan, consultant orthopaedic surgeon and foot and ankle specialist.

"I am sure it will have significant advantages for our patients. My colleagues and I hope to use this unique opportunity to streamline foot and ankle services in this part of Wales."

Dealing with foot and ankle patients on one site could help reduce waiting lists and times, while specialisation on this scale will also enhance skill levels across the orthopaedic team involved and provide training and research opportunities.

"Patients may have some concerns if they need to travel further," said Mr Hariharan.

"But we are confident that once they experience the range of services that this centre of excellence can provide, they will realise that any such concerns will be far outweighed by the significant gains they will enjoy.

"The move will also help with decreasing the amount of patient traffic at the Royal Gwent Hospital, which is congested at most times, and release capacity for other specialties."