At the start of 2020, few could not have imagined how the COVID-19 would reshape our lives. While the pandemic has been a particularly difficult time globally, as a community we have grown stronger.

A shared challenge that has propelled us to adapt, to mobilise and to find new ways of working together while still staying apart. As a Health Board we are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community and the impact it has had on helping to achieve the seemingly impossible.

One year on, we recall the bold vision to expand our hospital bed capacity by 2,000 in preparation for a worst-case scenario at the height of the first wave of the virus. Ysbyty Calon Y Ddraig, Dragon’s Heart Hospital, the UK’s second largest field hospital, was constructed in just 2-3 weeks as part of NHS Wales’ response to COVID-19.
The hospital is an example of how we worked collaboratively with the community and a wide range of partners to protect the population of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan in a time of great need. The name of the hospital, which was chosen by our community, became a symbol of resilience and standing steadfast in the face of adversity.

We are grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of every one who followed the guidance to ‘Stay home, Protect the NHS and Save lives’, which prevent the hospital needing to be utilised at the level to which had originally been predicted. 

The Cardiff & Vale Health Charity were and continue to be instrumental in supporting our hardworking NHS heroes.
The staff havens provided a place for staff to rest and recuperate.
The Health Charity also coordinated with members of the community who selflessly donated their time, food, supplies and funds to our staff through the most challenging times. In collaboration with the Health Charity, local business owner Kasim Ali started ‘Feed the Heath’, an initiative which brought together local cafés, restaurants and caterers to deliver over 23,000 meals and 5,000 desserts to NHS staff.

The hospital build took 5,000 planning hours, over 600 staff, 250,000 construction hours and 100s of volunteers. The temporary hospital opened on 20th April 2020 receiving its first patient on 28th April,
less than a month after the idea was conceived. None of this could have been achieved without the commitment and dedication of all those who were involved both directly and indirectly.

Ysbyty Calon Y Ddraig, Dragon’s Heart Hospital was a feat of partnership working. This week we would like to extend a huge thank you to our
Health Board staff, Cardiff Council and Vale of the Glamorgan Council, colleagues at Wales Ambulance Service NHS Trust and St John’s Ambulance Cymru, Cardiff and Vale Health Charity, Mott McDonald,
Archus, Q5, BDP, ES Global and all our contractors, the British Army, Welsh Rugby Union, Principality Stadium, Cardiff Blues and all the staff, volunteers and members of the community who came together to help make this vision a reality. 

Charity Patron and artist Nathan Wyburn created one of the most iconic images from the pandemic -“Behind the Mask” – to thank NHS frontline staff, with the montage made-up of hundreds of images of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board staff. Cardiff & Vale Health Charity also commissioned local artist Dan Peterson to illustrate life inside Wales’ largest field hospital and capture a sense of the comradery. These prints of the artworks are now on sale with 50% of all profits going towards the Health Charity – Arts for Health and Wellbeing fund, to support further initiatives.

These are just a few examples of how the community has supported our staff and each other during these difficult times. We are immensely grateful for the countless sacrifices we have each made to keep our community, staff and patients safe. We are humbled by the outpouring of compassion and courage; and while we have had to stay apart, we have grown closer yet. Despite the myriad of challenges posed by COVID-19, the pandemic has given us an opportunity to learn, evolve and grow closer as a community.