THE shocking revelation that Gwent’s newest hospital has been operating without full planning permission for its accident and emergency department shows a “frightening” lack of judgement by health bosses, an MP has said.
Since opening three years ago, The Grange University Hospital at Llanfrechfa has only had permission to treat patients at its emergency department who had been brought there either by ambulance or transferred from another hospital.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board did not anticipate patients would take themselves to A&E at the flagship £350m hospital when planning permission was granted for the 450-bed specialist and critical care centre in 2013 – despite closing the emergency departments at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny and Newport’s Royal Gwent Hospital.
Planning permission therefore only covered “triaged patients” who had been assessed, in some form, by health professionals and taken to The Grange either by ambulance, helicopter or transferred from another health facility.
Torfaen County Borough Council’s planning committee held a special meeting to rectify the oversight and has now granted approval to vary the permission, so the A&E department is allowed to treat walk-in patients.
Approval was also granted to keep a car park to provide for walk-in patients, which was developed without permission, and create a two-story extension to the emergency department.
Monmouth MP David Davies said it “beggars belief” and raised “worrying concerns” about increased demand on the hospital due to the health board’s own proposal to close the minor injury unit at Nevill Hall Hospital overnight.
“The Grange only treats patients with a life-threatening illness or serious injury and when I officially visited, I was told they absolutely would not take walk-ins,” said Mr Davies.
“However, I have been contacted by a local consultant who says they do accept walk-ins and people can self-refer. I will therefore write to the health board to get full clarity and ask what the official policy is.
“That said, I remain extremely concerned about the way services are provided. By shutting the minor injury unit in Abergavenny overnight and removing an easily accessible service for residents living in north Monmouthshire and south Powys, the health board instead wants people to travel after 1:00am to the minor injury unit at the Royal Gwent Hospital.
“Residents travelling to Newport via the A4042 would ironically have to pass The Grange and they may mistakenly seek treatment there, which is going to place increased demand on the hospital at a time when it is already struggling to cope.
“The health board has got this all wrong. It shows a frightening lack of judgement and forward planning strategies.”
With an eight-week period of consultation underway on the future of minor injury provision, Mr Davies is once again urging residents to have their say.
He said he would be attending the public engagement session at Abergavenny Market on Friday 29 September between 10:00am and 12:00pm to support concerned constituents.
“If ever there was a reason to fight against the further stripping back of local services, this is it and I would urge as many people as possible to make their voices heard,” added Mr Davies.
“We need to come together and defend the need to keep the minor injury unit at Nevill Hall. Please give feedback through a survey on the health board’s website, attend a public engagement session and sign the petition on the Senedd Cymru website.”