South East Wales

NHS 'birthplace' Tredegar's GP services 'unsustainable'

Aneurin Bevan
Image caption Aneurin Bevan founded the National Health Service in 1948.

Health services in the town often cited as the birthplace of the NHS are "unsustainable", a report has warned.

Tredegar-born Aneurin Bevan, the then UK health minister, founded the national health service in 1948.

But a report warns Tredegar's GP services are "not fit for purpose" with outdated buildings and a lack of doctors.

Blaenau Gwent council and the health board are considering opening a new health and wellbeing unit in the town.

A joint report by the health board and council says two GP practices are providing care for about 14,000 people in the town, which has high levels of deprivation and ill-health.

It adds: "Health and well-being services are currently unsustainable to continue to be delivered as they are, from both a service model and buildings prospective."

Image caption Tredegar Heritage Society wanted to turn the old hospital into a museum saying it was key in the formation of the NHS

The new health hub would potentially be on the site of the derelict Tredegar General Hospital, a building considered key to the formation of the NHS.

Aneurin Bevan was its management committee's chairman in 1928 - 20 years before founding the NHS.

In a nod to how it inspired him, when he set up the NHS, Bevan said: "All I am doing is extending to the entire population of Britain the benefits we have had in Tredegar for a generation or more...We are going to Tredegarise you."

Closed in 2010, Tredegar Heritage Society had hoped to turn the building into a museum reflecting its historical importance.

But these plans were shelved after a study showed the running costs would far outweigh any money made from visitors.

Councillor Tommy Smith, member for Sirhowy, said the GP services in the town were struggling and two doctors had come out of retirement to give some stability.

"We are desperate for a new provision in Tredegar, what that will be, will be determined after a consultation," he said.

He said the public needed to be asked what to do with the site, which is one of a number of buildings in the town considered key to the birth of the NHS.

"If they decide to knock it down they need to be put something there to acknowledge what the building stood for," he added.

Image caption The Circle - important buildings on it include the former town hall where Bevan spoke and his election victories were announced from the balcony

Gwent GP Isolde Shore-Nye said the problems facing primary care in Tredegar were a microcosm of the challenges facing the NHS across Wales and the UK.

But she said the problems were magnified in the area, which struggled to attract new doctors and retain them due to having high poverty levels.

She said while the new health hub was welcomed there were fears a modern facility would pull GPs away from other practices in the region which were already struggling to get by.

"GPs are almost a victim of our own success, we expected the patient demand to go up but what we haven't had is the resources," she said.

Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies said the Welsh Government had been working to secure high-quality GP services for Tredegar for some time.

He said: "I would hope that we can celebrate 70 years since the establishment of the NHS by bringing the general hospital back into use as a 21st Century health facility for the town. "

If plans for the unit are approved and signed off by the Welsh Government, it is hoped that the new facility would be open in two years time.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites