WORK continues at the Grange University Hospital site to ready it for opening before winter, with Monday November 16 cited as a date by which an 'operational hospital' can be delivered.

Approval is still needed from the Welsh Government if Aneurin Bevan University Health Board is to go ahead with its desired pre-winter opening, instead of next spring as originally planned.

But in the meantime, contractor Laing O'Rourke is busy working on key areas - including theatres and radiology - which must be finished to allow the Grange to open.

Planning for a full opening in November has been going on since work was completed in late April to enable the Grange to take patients to support the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ward areas capable of housing close to 400 patients were completed, but in the event were not needed during the first wave of the virus. But it was recognised that the hospital could play a vital role during the 2020/21 winter, which will come with the threat of a second wave of coronavirus alongside traditional extra pressures the season brings to the NHS.

There is also the pressing need to continue the painstaking but vital task of reproviding services such as elective treatments and diagnostic tests suspended when coronavirus hit last spring. Maximising capacity will be crucial in this regard.

The timescale being worked to regarding the Grange is detailed in the health board's operational plan to the end of September, and suggests November 16 as a date by which it wants the hospital to open:

"The current forward programme provided by LOR (Laing O'Rourke) states that in order to deliver an operational hospital by Monday 16th November 2020, LOR would complete works by 24th September and then focus on the Radiology fit out and CAT3 Laboratory.

"It is intended to continue to work collaboratively during the commissioning periods to enable Health Board access and handover of various areas prior to the 24th September where possible."


The section on the Grange also highlights just how vital a part of winter preparations the health board considers it, and why it has lobbied the Welsh Government for approval and funding to open it early.

"The opening of (the Grange University Hospital) is a direct response to COVID-19 and will ensure our key services are stabilised and there is the required capacity and resilience across the hospital system," it reads.

"There are a number of key variables which will be closely tracked and developed throughout the summer to ensure a successful operational commissioning of GUH as we move into November.

"Although the Health Board now has all the inpatient ward areas, there is still a large area being developed by the builder, including the Theatres and Radiology areas.

"These highly technical areas involve multiple teams working together to ensure a high quality working space is produced for specialist clinical teams to work effectively in."

Preparations to move the staff required to run the Grange are ongoing, as is recruitment into new roles for the same purpose.

The readiness of clinical services to move to the Grange - or to respond to the impact of other service moves to the Grange - is also being monitored regularly.

A communications programme is being developed, so more than 600,000 people in Gwent and south Powys can understand the changes in services and their locations that the opening of the Grange will usher in, and to make sure they have the information needed to turn up at the right hospital site for their needs.

Development of an inter-site transport system - to transfer patients from other hospitals to the Grange and vice versa - is continuing too.

The health board is also looking at the potential for regional working regarding field hospitals, in terms of coronavirus and non-coronavirus capacity, winter planning, and increasing elective treatments and testing.