HEALTH bosses will spend £1 million on a new scanner for a Gwent hospital, to safeguard services for thousands of patients, and reduce the risk of misdiagnosis.

The current CT (computerised tomography) scanner at Abergavenny's Nevill Hall Hospital is vital to the care of emergency trauma patients and for informing a wide range of routine diagnoses.

But it is eight years old, increasingly prone to breakdown and the need for servicing and, says an Aneurin Bevan Health Board report, due to its age, it is inevitable that image quality will deteriorate, "imposing a significant clinical risk of misdiagnosis."

CT scans provide a more detailed image of the inside of the body than conventional x-rays, with computer technology used in tandem with the latter to create cross-section images.

The existing CT scanner at Nevill Hall was used on more than 17,200 occasions last year, and demand is increasing, with 18,100 uses estimated for this year, and a need for such scans to be used in implementing new guidelines for head injuries and stroke management.

The Nevill Hall scanner is described as "critical" particularly to its A&E department receiving emergency patients.

"Closure of the scanner results in the closure of A&E to emergency trauma cases," says the health board report.

CT scanners do not come cheap however. The new one, including VAT, will cost just over #1m, and the board must use funds from its Discretionary Capital Programme - an annual budget for repairs and equipment replacement.

This year it has just £6.2m, but the Welsh Government is poised to take around 10 per cent from all health boards' Discretionary Capital funding, to help close gaps in another NHS Wales budget.