Risks of move to new Grange University Hospital outweighed by benefits, say doctors

The Grange University Hospital opens to patients today. Credit: Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

Doctors have warned that the benefits of Wales' new hospital outweigh the risks associated with moving to it during a global health crisis.

The Grange University Hospital, in Llanfrechfa, Cwmbran, officially opens its doors to patients from Tuesday.

The opening is four months early and is part of Aneurin Bevan Health Board's response to Covid, as well as building winter pressures.

Doctors working at the new hospital accept that the timing of the move could have been better, but that despite the potential risks, the positives of moving are worth it.

Dr Ami Jones is a consultant in intensive care medicine who works for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. Credit: ITV Wales

Dr Ami Jones, who works in intensive care, said: "While everyone [other health boards] was making their field hospital plans, our health board said 'let's build our new hospital quicker', so by the end of April we had half of this hospital ready to put patients into if we needed to and then we thought 'well, we've got half of it done, it's going to be finished early'.

"There was a lot of decision making to be done about what are the pros and cons and we found that the pros of having an enormous intensive treatment unit with 30 beds and other departments, too, had big lifts to their plan.

"It doesn't make sense on paper to move in the middle of a pandemic, going into winter but actually it will make winter so much more bearable for us."

The hospital cost £350m to build and will become the sole A&E unit for the entire Gwent area. 

There will be 24/7 Minor Injury Units at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Nevill Hall Hospital and Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr.

Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan will continue to have a Minor Injury Unit, open 9am-7pm Monday to Friday.

Grange University Hospital cost £350m to build. Credit: ITV Wales

One significant challenge of the move has been staffing the new hospital and the existing hospitals in a period of "double running" to ensure services are adequately maintained.

Dr Christopher Chick has spearheaded the move. He said: "Covid does cause us problems, I won't pretend it doesn't, because of the workforce being affected in a different way.

"It will come from a mixture of allocation of resource for a short time period which is why we want the real changes in three days so we're not double running for long periods of time.

"We will use an element of bank and agency, we will use an element of extended overtime."

Last week there were "huge concerns" over patient safety, were the opening of the hospital this week to go ahead. The health board said only a minority of doctors had reservations.

The health board has sought to set out clearly how services will change from today.