Page last updated at 17:26 GMT, Monday, 19 January 2009

292m new hospital plan on hold

Artist's impression of how a new hospital might look
The new hospital would be supported by six local hospitals

Health officials have been asked to look again at a planned 292m critical care hospital in south east Wales.

The specialist hospital in Newport or Torfaen was part of Gwent NHS Trust's Clinical Futures strategy, which includes six local hospitals.

But Health Minister Edwina Hart wants more work to show the plans are "ambitious, right and deliverable".

The local health watchdog said it "shared the disappointment" of the local NHS at the decision.

A spokesman for Ms Hart said the clinical models to support the specialist and critical care centre (SCCC) plan were "complex" and the proposals needed to be "robust".

Instead of the radical surgery our healthcare service needs we end up with a sticking-plaster job of patching up hospitals - a waste of money
Mike German AM

"The health community in Gwent has been asked to undertake further work assessing the service model changes and demonstrating that proposals are ambitious, right and deliverable," he said.

"As a consequence of this, the construction industry partners advising on design and costs for the SCCC have accomplished all that they can for the time being and have been stood down until the work has been completed to my satisfaction. I believe that time spent ensuring this now will be time well spent."

The location of the new hospital was expected to be at Newport - near the existing Royal Gwent Hospital on an old steelworks site, or at Llanfrechfa Grange in Cwmbran.

The new hospital services vision would mean a network of six local hospitals, including the new Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr in Caerphilly and Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan being built in Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent. A smaller general hospital would still be based in Newport, if the Cwmbran option was chosen.

Location map

South East Wales assembly Mike German said it meant the plans were being "kicked into the long grass" and left the health shake-up a "sticking-plaster job rather than radical surgery."

Mr German said the delay was "the worst of all worlds."

He added: "On Friday we saw the First Minister Rhodri Morgan, singing and dancing about a new hospital in Ystrad Mynach. It was a staged event to divert attention from the awful news about Gwent's NHS on Monday."

Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay said it was a "huge setback".

"I fully appreciate that budgets are tight and that at 292m, the new care centre is far from cheap, but a huge amount of time and money has already been invested in the project over the last few years."

Catherine O'Sullivan, chief officer of Gwent Community Health Council (CHC) said Clinical Futures was a "pioneering model", which was in line with current guidance and good practice and was "widely supported" by the public.

"The implications of this decision is that Gwent will now have to try and implement the new model across a hospital estate which, in part, will remain outdated and unfit for purpose. Under these circumstances the implications for patients in any 'plan B' will need to be carefully scrutinised."

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