Cardiff's Principality Stadium set for rugby again after field hospital is decommissioned

121020 principality stadium field hospital pa
Credit: PA

The largest field hospital in Wales and the second largest in the UK has been formally decommissioned and will return to life as the Principality Stadium.

Ysbyty Calon Y Ddraig, Dragon's Heart Hospital, was developed at the stadium in Cardiff - home of the Welsh rugby union men's team - to provide up to 2,000 additional beds for coronavirus patients.

The Prince of Wales hailed the temporary hospital as a "huge source of pride" at its official opening in April, after it was built in just two weeks and doubled the size of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board's system.

But after 205 days in which only 46 patients were admitted, the site has been reinstated as a stadium ahead of the return of the Six Nations in 2021, with the exact cost of the hospital's development and decommissioning yet to be finalised.

On Wednesday, the health board said it had formally left the site, and said it was "testament to the dedication of the general public in following the guidance to 'Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives"' that the hospital was not used at the level that had been predicted.

A frequently asked questions page on the hospital's website said a spike in numbers of patients, as predicted in original modelling, never materialised due to "the stringent lockdown and social distancing" in Wales.

The website said: "As a result we could manage the patients within the capacity of the Cardiff and Vale UHB. Should we have had a significant rise in numbers as experienced by our neighbouring health boards, we would have been in a strong position to have coped with a surge in Covid-19 patients."

The field hospital under construction at the Principality Stadium.

Large tent-like structures were erected on the pitch containing around 750 beds, with 250 more beds on platforms around it, while stadium hospitality boxes were also turned into wards.

The hospital included on-site radiography, laboratories and a pharmacy.

The tented structure housing wards on the stadium's pitch was around eight times the size of Glastonbury festival's main stage, while enough temporary energy was fed into the hospital to power a small town.

Inside the Dragon's Heart Hospital.

Planners expected around 1,000 clinicians and 600 support staff to operate the facility on a single shift had there been a greater spike in patients.

The health board said key lessons from the hospital have been utilised for the new Lakeside Wing at University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, with the first phase of the building scheduled to be complete on November 25.

The new temporary facility will accommodate up to 400 beds, with an additional 200 beds to be made available across the health board's other sites.

Martin Driscoll, deputy chief executive at Cardiff and Vale, said: "On behalf of CAVUHB and all of the staff and patients we provide services for, thank you for this incredible feat and for enabling us to reassure our communities we were prepared for whatever the pandemic threw at us."

Steve Phillips, CEO at the Welsh Rugby Union, said: "Being able to offer Principality Stadium to the National Health Service and Welsh Government to assist in the fight against Covid-19 has been a privilege.

"The Dragon's Heart Hospital demonstrates the extent of successful collaboration and what can be achieved when people in Wales come together; and I'm extremely proud of the WRU staff who played a key part in the successful development and delivery of the temporary surge hospital within our stadium."