THE Grange University Hospital could open as early as November if a proposal agreed by Gwent's health board today is approved by the Welsh Government.

The hospital - which will treat the area's sickest patients - was originally scheduled to open next spring, but may now start taking patients ahead of the winter.

It has been partially completed ahead of schedule as part of the preparations made in Wales to provide extra hospital space for patients during the Covid-19 crisis.

Some 350 beds were made available as a result of this work though they have not, in the event, been needed. But the work has enabled health bosses to plan for a possible earlier opening of the hospital.

The proposal is to open the Grange from November as a specialist and critical care centre, aligned to the model originally planned though with some interim variations, and centralising many acute services onto one specialist site.

Early opening is not wholly intended as a response to coronavirus and a possible second surge. But winter is traditionally a very busy period for the NHS in Gwent - indeed the whole of Wales and the rest of the UK - and the extra capacity would be very welcome, especially as Covid-19 will be a factor to some extent anyway.

“Today the health board has supported a proposal for the early opening of the Grange University Hospital for November 2020 as part of the our operational planning process and winter preparations during the COVID-19 pandemic," said an Aneurin Bevan University Health Board spokesman.

“This proposal will now been submitted to Welsh Government for consideration and final approval.”

Health minister Vaughan Gething addressed the issue of the Grange University Hospital in the Welsh Government's daily coronavirus briefing today.

He said funding for the hospital had been accelerated so it could be used as a potential field hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, he said, there is a “choice”about whether it could be available for this winter.

"It isn't a question of coronavirus driving those decisions but there is a potential benefit in our overall system capacity and resilience if we were able to do so," he said.

“These are difficult questions given the constrained capital budget we continue to face in our response to coronavirus.”


Another issue that must be addressed is making sure that there are sufficient staff in place with the requisite skills to enable the hospital top operate at the level required.

Sickness, shielding, .test, trace and protect', and training are among the factors that must be considered.

Recruitment is under way in a range of key medical specialities, and the early identification and planned use of overseas and newly qualified nurses will be key too.

Increased use of bank and agency staff is also foreseen.

Robust patient transfer and transport arrangements will also be vital, along with a comprehensive communications and engagement plan, to make sure patients and families know where and how to access hospital services as changes are made at existing sites as the Grange opens.

Opening the Grange in November - based on the availability of 464 beds, with less reliance on other hospital sites for surge capacity - has been estimated to cost a further £17.4 million, from November 2020-March 2021.

This is in addition to the £41m coronavirus-influenced financial deficit forecast by the health board for April-October this year, and will require Welsh Government approval.

The Grange will treat the sickest patients in Gwent and south Powys, providing complex specialist and critical care treatment for a catchment area of more than 600,000 people.

The hospital is being built on part of the former Llanfrechfa Grange Hospital site, and work began in July 2017. It was originally proposed back in 2004.

The Grange is intended as a specialist and critical care centre, dealing with major emergencies and complex treatments.

It will include a 24-hour emergency department and assessment unit, dealing with emergencies and resuscitation cases. It will also host a broad range of diagnostic services, operating theatres, and a consultant-led obstetric unit.

Pathology, pharmacy, and radiology, including MRI and CT scanners, will be sited here too.

The site will also include a helipad, to enable emergency cases to be transferred quickly.