£64m children's hospital of Wales expansion opens in Cardiff

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Media captionSinger Charlotte Church has been involved in the fundraising effort since she was a teenager

A decade since it first opened, a significant milestone has been marked in the history of Wales' only dedicated hospital for children.

The first minister officially opened the £64m second phase of the Noah's Ark Children's Hospital for Wales.

It means almost all specialist care for children will be under one roof in Cardiff for the first time.

Doctors say children from across Wales will benefit from a children's hospital "in the premier league" for the UK.

Dr Allan Wardhaugh, clinical director of acute child health in Cardiff and Vale, said it was tremendously exciting.

"The new building is spacious and provides comfort and dignity to the patients coming to us and it brings a group of clinicians who need to work with children together for the first time," he said.

"We aim to provide as many of the comforts of home as we can to make their stay better - certainly more than the children's wards I started work on.

"There are beds in all the rooms for parents to sleep in. It allows them a little more normality as these are stressful times they're going through."

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Media captionOwain Clarke talked to staff and a parent and had a tour of some of the facilities

The new building includes five cutting-edge operating theatres, which will be used solely for children's surgery.

Having dedicated children's theatres help reduce the distress that can occur when children encounter seriously ill adults.

The theatres are also be kitted out with state-of-the-art ventilators which can deliver more accurate doses of anaesthetics.

The new wing's wards are significantly larger than in the original building - with more accommodation available for parents along with several play areas.

The second phase also includes a new hydrotherapy pool kitted out with the latest audio visual equipment and an "open" MRI scanner.

Such scanners are larger and less claustrophobic than traditional ones and allow children to see outside the scanner at all times.

Children can also follow cartoon images as a distraction and it is hoped it will the reduce the need to anaesthetise some children before a scan.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said a "good chunk" of Wales would be served by the hospital.

As well as young patients from the Cardiff and Vale Health Board area, the hospital also offers more specialist care for children across south, west and mid Wales.

"It's important to have expert centres such as this to ensure children have the best treatment they can," he said.

"Its a wonderful building, it's light and airy, it's a wonderful example of our determination to invest in the Welsh NHS."

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Media captionChildren get the comforts of home to make their hospital stay easier

As a result of ongoing discussions about centralising some services across south Wales it might end up doing even more.

Although they have space, as things stand there are not enough staff.

"There are two missing bits for me," said Dr Wardhaugh.

"One bit is the neo-natal unit, which is clinically excellent but we need to do some work to get the physical environment up to the standard we've got in the children's hospital.

"And we'd like a dedicated children's emergency department - whether it's alongside the existing emergency department or whether part of the children's hospital is something we're discussing but the latter has distinct advantages."

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