A £40million health and well-being campus that aims to bring essential care services ‘closer to home’, house a three-storey clinical facility and restore an old build to its former glory - that is the vision for a hospital development set become yet another integral part of Rhyl’s regeneration.

In an exclusive interview with the Journal, Gareth Evans, project director and clinical director of therapy services at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), painted a picture as to what a North Denbighshire Community Hospital - on and around the site of the Royal Alexandra Hospital - will offer.

Services include a minor injuries, being called a same day service; older persons mental health that will work closely with older person physical teams; sexual health; day therapy assessment unit (IV Suite); community dental; radiology services; enhanced outpatient therapy service and inpatient facilities with a ward establishment of 28 beds - 22 of them will be in single rooms with en suite facilities.

A majority of services will live in the new-build clinical facility and office and support accommodation will be in the refurbished grade II Royal Alex building.

There will be a cafe, an increase in car parking, an information point to be staffed by voluntary organisations and plans are in the pipeline to develop a ambulatory care unit.

Pending approval from the Welsh Government, which is expected to provide feedback on the proposal in late December or January 2019, a full business case will be submitted in March 2020. The hospital is set to open in 2022.

Mr Evans, who has been involved in the project since 2016, said: “It is an exciting project and quite a big project. £40million capital money is big.

“There is a lot of public and political interest and has been for some time. People are really keen to see this happen as they can see the benefits and service we want to provide.”

The business case proposed a capital spend of £40.24million for the project, funded by the Welsh Government. This figure is an increase from the estimate in the Strategic Outline Case of £22.2million.

“So the difference in the capital cost,” Mr Evans said.

“The first thing to say is that is not usual, as Tom Jones would say, for things to differ in an outline business case to a strategic business case. The second phase goes into a lot more detail.

“When I got involved two years ago, because of the length of time, the scope of services and scale of services involved wasn’t quite now what we wanted.

“The obvious example was we wanted to put a minor injuries in the building. That wasn’t in the strategic outline case, but we made a case for it and it has had huge local support. No GP but it will be led by advance nurse practitioners. There was other things as well such as IV therapies, that is a model we have in Llandudno and again, it stops people travelling over the border.”

The figure also rose as it became apparent that original proposals to refurbish and extend the Royal Alex for clinical use would prove costly.

“Surveys of the site told us that the existing building was never really going to be fit for modern day service,” Mr Evans added.

“To even try and get close to that would cost huge amounts of money.

“The survey told us that as soon as you start messing about the the electrics, heating, plumbing - you have got to do the whole lot. So costs like that crept in and we realised we would have to spend a lot more money on the existing building than we planned to.

“We have effectively put more services and wanted to put more services in than we planned for."

It is hoped that North Denbighshire Community Hospital will be unique in its approach to bring together older persons mental and physical health.

Mr Jones said: "We have a chance to create something really strong how we care the older people which blurs the boundaries between physical and mental health. The older person mental health psychiatrists will be there as well as a whole physical team - district nurses, social workers and therapists.

"Having them all together gives us a chance to look at older people as a whole rather than looking after mental health or physical health."

Mr Jones was also keen to talk about the ward.

"This is quite interesting as we have decided on 28 beds, but 22 will be single ensuite facilities," he said.

"It will be about older people and although, not specialist EMI beds, quite a lot of older people come to our community hospital beds living with dementia or have a cognitive impairment.

"We are trying to create an environment which allows them to flourish so we can rehabilitate and get them out into the community quicker.

"There will be quite a strong emphasis on rehabilitation and therapy services," Mr Evans added.

"Community dental will have a large presence on site and will become a centre of excellence really. Community dental is for vulnerable groups in society. People who have learning difficulties for example or children or those with phobias and those that can’t access your mainstream dental.

"A big part of the business case is trying to take some of the pressure off Glan Clwyd Hospital. The minor injuries will help as the amount of people who go to Glan Clwyd Hospital from North Denbighshire is colossal, I think for about 20 per cent for fairly minor stuff.

"Advance nurse practitioners will be leading this, they are fantastic. If they need support, they can pick up the phone to a GP to get advice or send the person to ED."

Mr Evans, who has been with BCUHB since it formed, said the whole ethos behind proposals for a North Denbighshire Community Hospital was providing a service that is convenient.

He added: "How it will fit in with Rhyl regeneration, that is a really important aspect. In the business case we feel we have captured that.

"The old building is a big part of the case, we can knock down some of the hideous extensions that have gone on over the years and make it go back to its former glory. About £8million out of the £40million will go on the existing building and what we are describing is a light refurbishing so it gives you the scale what you can spent on a old building. You could probably spent two or three times that.

"We are taking this seriously and we aren’t going to leave the building there to rot which is the fear felt by some people.

"There will be a synergy between the two buildings [old and new]. What we are trying to create is a health and well-being campus so it is not just about this nice new shiny building, but the services we deliver.

"We are keen for it become a community asset."