Health board approves £18m Glan Clwyd neonatal unit

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Media captionA Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists report listed eight possible options for the new site

A health board has approved a business plan for a new £18m neonatal intensive care unit in Denbighshire.

Betsi Cadwaladr health board previously said it was "committed" to the centre at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan.

It follows thousands of people protesting against initial plans to downgrade maternity services there.

The detailed plan now needs Welsh Government approval before building work starts.

Dr Mark Walker, from the health board, said it "underlines our commitment to the best quality services".

Until March 2014, when First Minister Carwyn Jones guaranteed the unit, providing care for babies as young as 26 weeks, parents were faced with the prospect of very sick and premature babies being transported to Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral.

Papers discussed on Thursday included a report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), which lists eight possible options for the new neonatal site, including basing it in either Bangor or Wrexham.

But the health board said the RCOG report had no impact on the neonatal unit and it was "committed to delivering" it as part of developments at Glan Clwyd Hospital.

The preferred option is for a 22-cot unit, 20 of which would be staffed from the outset, with the other two available to accommodate increased future demand.

If the full business plan is approved by the Welsh Government in October, it is envisaged the unit will be commissioned in March 2018.

A report to the board said 47 extra staff, including doctors, nurses, therapists and pharmacists, would be needed and recruitment has been identified as "an area of significant risk".

"Recruitment is a challenge, however the risk is being actively managed and is reducing as the development progresses," the report said.

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