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New £11m breast cancer unit will open despite health board’s financial struggles

Artist impression of the new breast unit at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr (Pic: ABUHB)

A SPECIALIST breast unit at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr (YYF) will open as planned in 2024 despite the local health board’s gloomy financial situation.

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board announced this week it had overspent by £36.3 million on the running of services across Gwent in the past three years, with extra spending at least partially down to hiring more agency staff and higher bills for energy and prescription drugs.

The health board is facing the prospect of having to make sizeable savings this financial year to prevent its already £112m budget deficit ballooning further.

The funding for building the £11m unit at YYF comes from a separate capital budget, and health board chief executive Nicola Prygodzicz said its construction was showing “really good progress”.

Nicola Prygodzicz (Pic: Aneurin Bevan University Health Board)

But its opening will come against the backdrop of increased demand for cancer services and a “very challenging” time for the NHS in Gwent, both in terms of finances and of demand for services.

Speaking at the health board’s annual general meeting, on September 27, Mrs Prygodzicz told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the health board had “planned for the breast unit business case”.

She confirmed the new unit at the Ystrad Mynach hospital would be “due for completion this financial year” and would open in 2024.

Despite the reported overspend on running existing services, Mrs Prygodzicz said “we don’t anticipate any risk to the opening [and running] of the breast unit associated with our financial position”.

But an increase in demand for cancer care means the health board is taking extra steps to ensure the new unit runs properly.

Mrs Prygodzicz said cancer treatment was “one of our top priorities” at the health board.

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“We continue – in the light of increased cancer demand – to review our service plans to make sure we’ve got the right staffing models,” she said.

“Our intention is that we will open that unit as planned.”

The £11m capital funding for the building of the hospital is “fully covered” and “there’s no risk” to the construction of the YYF breast unit, Mrs Prygodzicz added.