PROPOSALS for an extension at Neath Port Talbot Hospital to deal with planned operations have been endorsed by health leaders in the region.
Surgeons at the extension, which could be ready in 2023, would replace hips, knees and operate on shoulders and backs.
It is part of a wider emphasis on separating emergency and elective – or planned – surgery.
Members of the Swansea Bay University Health Board executive approved a strategic outline case for the extension, which was one of four options considered, at a meeting on November 26.
“This very important for us,” said health board chairwoman Emma Woollett.
Over the last six years, planned operations have been postponed during the winter as seasonal pressures bear down on staff and resources.
And waiting lists have lengthened dramatically this year due to the impact of Covid-19.
Last month there were 30,776 Swansea Bay patients waiting more than 36 weeks for treatment, compared to 4,256 a year before.
Board member Reena Owen said these cases might not be perceived as urgent, but that long delays had a “debilitating effect” on patients’ lives.
“Therefore we really need to move this forward,” she said.
Chief operating officer Chris White said creating the new facility would also free up resources for more specialised procedures.
Not all patients with knee, hip or shoulder problems need operations.
For those that do, the health board is also considering a demountable operating area to bridge the three-year completion phase of the extension, should it be approved by the Welsh Government.
The plans have been welcomed by patient watchdog, the Swansea Bay Community Health Council.
The strategic outline case said waiting times for patients was “unacceptable”, with one housebound patient saying he had been waiting four years for a knee replacement.
It said: “This is detrimental for patients who are facing longer and longer delays for treatment and worsening of their condition. It damages the morale of st