WORK is continuing on plans for Gwent’s longawaited Specialist and Critical Care Centre, which is set to dominate spending on NHS building projects in the area for several years.

An indicative five-year capital programme for Aneurin Bevan Health Board – a rough draft of proposed spending on such projects – shows nearly £133 million being allocated to the new hospital by the Welsh Government, in escalating annual amounts up to and including 2015/16.

And a further significant contribution will be required beyond that point, unless the proposed programme is revised. Just over £4.2m is earmarked for the centre (SCCC) next year rising to almost £72.4m in 2015/16.

The future of the proposed centre, first mooted in 2003, was thrown into doubt by the global downturn and planning was suspended in 2008.

But it was resumed early in 2010, and last March the then health minister Edwina Hart reaffirmed, in a letter to AMs, that the project would go ahead, with a reduced cost.

The estimated cost of around £300m was cut to £230m following a review, but its key services remain the same as originally proposed, but with fewer beds.

The centre’s size in area, however, has been cut by a third, to 44,000 square metres, mainly through reducing the size of corridors and single en-suite rooms for patients.

Service planning and capacity needs are continually reviewed, but at present, the SCCC will have 415 beds, including 42 high-intensity coronary, critical care and stroke beds, 220 adult inpatient beds for complex surgery, with post-surgical intensive care and high dependency care back-up, 42 neo-natal cots, a 53-bed maternity unit, and 56 paediatric beds.

The SCCC will be built at the Llanfrechfa Grange Hospital site near Cwmbran.

Building work could start in late 2013 or early 2014 with a prospective three-year duration, though this depends on processing of a planning application and other factors.