BED occupancy at a flagship inpatient unit run by St David's Hospice Care in Newport is being restricted because of a lack of palliative care consultant cover.

The £5 million unit - which opened in 2017 at the charity's headquarters site in Malpas, Newport - has 15 beds and offers a consultant-led palliative care service for patients with life threatening or terminal illnesses.

But the consultant cover is provided by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB), and the St David's Hospice Care annual general meeting was told by Joanne Lane, clinical service manager for palliative care at the health board that recruitment into consultant posts has been a problem.


Bed occupancy during 2018/19 was reported at 57 per cent - just over half of the unit's provision.

Opening all 15 beds in the unit was a priority for the charity last year, and in its annual review for 2018/19 it states: "Unfortunately, due to issues with Consultant in palliative medicine cover we have been unable to open all of our beds.

"This issue is outside of our control as ABUHB employ and allocate the medical cover.

"There was a five-week period when the beds were open and this was a success."

Ms Lane said the aim has been to have all beds in the unit open, with admissions Monday-Friday, but that vacancies and recruitment have been a problem.

"Workforce is a challenge and beds are being under-utilised at the moment," she said.

"We are looking to reopen beds to support winter pressures (as happened last year). Winter is an opportunity as extra funding is available."Ms Lane said the health board is trying to develop a patient-centred palliative care service "receptive to need and as close to home as possible", a model of prudent healthcare based on "ensuring the right people are delivering the right care at the right time and in the right place."

She stressed again the need to maximise the use of inpatients beds in the hospice, but believes that Gwent is at the forefront of providing quality palliative care services, with the health board and hospices working together.

St David's Hospice Care chief executive Emma Saysell said the organisation has consolidated following several years of rapid expansion of services and facilities, that culminated with the opening of the inpatient unit, and continues to provide "unique, high quality services".


During 2018/19, 3,162 patients benefited from the work of its 20 community clinical nurse specialists, across Newport, Torfaen, Monmouthshire and Caerphilly, and they had 2,141 new referrals.

The Hospice At Home service - which aims to provide end-of-life care at home, and to enable patients to have a choice about where they die - had 624 new referrals, and provided 44,111 hours of care.

The four day hospices dealt with 395 patients and had 3,288 attendances across its four sites.

There were 191 admissions to the inpatient unit and the average length of stay was 15 days.

The family support team handled 154 new social work referrals, 573 new welfare rights referrals, 258 new referrals into the Unicorn service for bereaved children, and carried out 1,337 adult bereavement visits.

The St David's complementary therapy team had 432 new referrals and gave 1,576 treatments.