Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
Rebecca Evans MS, Minister for Finance and Trefnydd
The Welsh Government is committed to improving cancer outcomes. In order to achieve this, it is vital that the NHS in Wales has the necessary infrastructure to deliver high quality cancer treatment. Our three cancer centres in Wales are the vital hubs for our cancer services delivered across North, South West and South East Wales.
The Welsh Government made a commitment in its Programme for Government to develop proposals for a new cancer centre in South East Wales. This commitment recognised the ageing and suboptimal layout of the current Velindre Cancer Centre and the need to replace it with a modern, fit for purpose facility. This project is one of three pipeline projects to be delivered using the Welsh Government’s revenue funded Mutual Investment Model, which will support additional investment in social and economic infrastructure projects to help improve public services in Wales. The other schemes include work to complete the dualling of the A465 from Dowlais Top to Hirwaun, and additional investment in Band B of the 21st century schools programme.
Velindre University NHS Trust has worked with its Health Board commissioners over a number of years to develop proposals for a replacement Centre, as part of its broader regional change programme Transforming Cancer Services. The development of the Outline Business Case and its associated enabling works has required a range of engagement, support and technical advice. We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the development of the business cases.
The proposals submitted to the Welsh Government have been subject to a long and detailed scrutiny process by officials. Advice was received by Welsh Ministers on 1 March 2021 and following consideration of this and the range of statutory duties placed on us as Ministers we are pleased to confirm our support for the outline business cases for the new Velindre Cancer Centre and the site enabling works. There are still further decision points ahead for Welsh Ministers but this announcement confirms our intention to build a new cancer hospital that is planned to be operational in 2025.
We are both aware that the proposals submitted have created significant interest among the public and healthcare professionals in South East Wales. Strongly held views in favour and against the proposal have been shared with Members and debated in the Senedd. We recognise the strength of views expressed and the concerns that have been raised. Many have questioned the environmental impact and the clinical model of the cancer centre. These are perfectly legitimate concerns to have raised and have required careful consideration. In terms of the environmental impact of developing this site, the local planning authority is responsible for this determination. As Ministers we are also reassured by the plans set out in the business cases for the cancer centre to have the highest standards of sustainable construction and for a sensitive approach to be taken to the siting and development on the Northern Meadows site.
The clinical model supported by this development is a very complex matter and we have considered the many arguments for co-location of the centre on an acute hospital site, including the advice from the Nuffield Trust. The new Velindre Cancer Centre is intended as an elective hub for cancer treatment that will sit within a wider network of provision for cancer care. Its emphasis is on delivering the best possible patient experience during the most difficult time for people affected by cancer. The proposals are therefore not for a cancer centre that manages acutely unwell patients. These patients have always been cared for in our district general hospitals and this will continue to be the case. Health Boards in South East Wales are working with Velindre Trust to further strengthen the arrangements for the management of acutely unwell cancer patients in our district general hospitals. This will involve the development of Velindre hubs that will provide dedicated space for Velindre oncologists and other Health Board specialist clinicians to work together in the management of acutely unwell patients or when delivering higher risk or experimental therapies.
Our decision is based on a balance of all these considerations. The case presented can achieve many of the clear benefits of co-location while preserving the essence of Velindre Cancer Centre’s unique environment for delivering cancer care. We are also clear that we cannot wait more than a decade for another site that can accommodate a different clinical model. A decision not to go ahead would have important implications for the resilience and quality of cancer services.
Now that a decision has been made, we hope that the local community and the clinical community can come together and continue to engage with this development which will deliver excellent, high quality cancer services of which we can be proud. We understand the strength of feeling around these matters but ultimately we all share the same desire to improve outcomes for cancer and ensure that these vital services are there for South East Wales and its communities for decades to come.