A DECISION to place Gwent’s health board under enhanced monitoring – in part due to problems at the flagship Grange Hospital – has been described as “disappointing”. 

Health minister Eluned Morgan announced the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board will be subject to “targeted intervention” due to her concerns about the emergency department at the 450 bed hospital at Llanfrechfa, Cwmbran and its finances. 

The Labour minister has also confirmed the Welsh Government will provide just over £14 million to extend and redesign parts of the emergency department of the hospital that cost £358m when it opened in 2020. 

Torfaen councillors have already given planning permission for the extension, at a meeting in September, when it was revealed there was no planning permission in place for patients to ‘walk in’ or self refer themselves to the emergency department. Health chiefs only intended it to treat those referred by other health professionals or rushed in by ambulance and didn’t forsee people taking themselves to the emergency department with all other accidents and emergency wards in Gwent closed.

Aneurin Bevan chief executive Nicola Prygodzicz confirmed the minister’s announcement at its board meeting, at its headquarters at St Cadoc’s Hospital, Caerleon, on Wednesday, January 24. 

She said as a result the board is subject to “increased escalation” around planning and finance and areas of performance related to emergency care at the Grange including ambulance handovers. 

Ms Prygodzicz said: “It is disappointing to be escalated but we absolutely acknowledge the areas of performance.” 

She said the areas subject to enhanced monitoring are its financial governance and that it has already taken actions to address this including a “stability board” and tightened controls. 

Ambulance handovers at the Grange – where fans have had to be installed to disperse exhaust fumes due to the amount of time the vehicles spend waiting outside with patients – will also be subject to a review. 

The chief executive said she was confident the issues would improve with the additional support from the Welsh Government. 

Ms Morgan announced Aneurin Bevan as well as the Swansea Bay and Hywel Dda Board in West Wales will be subject to “targeted intervention” which is the fourth of now five levels of enhanced oversight, from the Welsh Government. A new level of “areas of concern” has also been announced. 

The minister said “escalation and intervention arrangements” are “not a form of punishment, but a recognition we collectively need to work together to make things better.” 

All Welsh health boards have been subject to enhanced monitoring in relation to planning and finance since September. 

Ms Morgan said the Aneurin Bevan board’s support and intervention is being enhanced as it has made “insufficient progress in developing plans” to reduce its deficit. The board is currently predicting it will finish the year £56.4m in deficit, which is reduced from the previous forecast of a £112m deficit due to additional funding received from the Welsh Government. 

Patient watchdog Llais told the board it has acknowledged concerns about waiting times at the Grange and planned care, “particularly about knees and joints”. It also said coping with pain for people on long waits can be a “psychological barrier” and it would be looking at that further.