THIS is the new unit that health chiefs hope will speed up the care of patients arriving by ambulance at the Royal Gwent Hospital.

Known as a Patient Offload Department - or POD for short - it has been installed outside the entrance to the hospital's busy A&E unit.

It will be used to care for patients who would otherwise - during very busy periods in the hospital's emergency department - have to remain in the backs of emergency ambulances until a suitable space can be found for them.

South Wales Argus:

The POD (above) contains six hospital beds enabling the safe transfer of patients, and also allowing ambulance crews to be released more quickly to answer 999 calls across Gwent.

During a winter in which Aneurin Bevan University Health Board has already cared for an unprecedented amount of patients in its emergency departments, ambulance crews have often had to wait outside the Royal Gwent with patients until space has become available, though this is not a situation confined to this winter, or to this hospital.

In December, the health board’s emergency departments experienced their busiest ever month on record, dealing with 14,533 patients, eight per cent more than in December 2018. More than half of these patients passed through the Royal Gwent's emergency department.


During busy periods, ambulances can accumulate at the Royal Gwent, and handover times have been deteriorating.

There were 873 handovers in December took more than an hour, compared to 495 in December 2018.

“We have worked with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust to introduce this new patient offload department, to facilitate the swift transfer of ambulance patients into our emergency department at the Royal Gwent," said Claire Birchall, health board director of operations.

“The POD provides six beds in a safe and comfortable environment, which will improve the care we are able to give patients who may have otherwise be cared for in the back of an ambulance at times when the emergency department is full.”

Darren Panniers, area operations manager for the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, said the POD provides a "safe, dignified offload area", as well as disabled toilet facilities, hospital trolleys, medical gases and monitoring.

“We recognise that, in isolation, this will not solve the problem of handover delays," said Mr Panniers.

"But it’s a practical step in the circumstances to ensure ambulances can be released faster, especially during the busy winter period.”