THE controversial Southampton health centre that has been slammed as a “white elephant” cost £16m to build, the Daily Echo can reveal.

The total cost of building Adelaide Health Centre, which was meant to be a bustling health hub for the 21st century, has never before been reported.

Today more questions are being asked about why health chiefs went ahead with the costly health hub when GPs in the area were sceptical about the need for it.

One of those doctors who was on the verge of moving his practice to the new centre told the Daily Echo he remembers a meeting where health bosses from the now defunct Southampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT) insisted the build would go ahead with or without local GP surgeries signing up to move in.

Roland Simpson confirmed that Brook House Surgery in Millbrook was the surgery lined up to move into the centre at the time the plans got the go-ahead for the council – but after the goalposts changed, they felt they had no option but to pull out.

As revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo, what should have been a centre of excellence for healthcare has been criticised for being a “ghost town” which is costing the taxpayers £1.5m a year to run.

But health bosses, who have admitted that Adelaide Health Centre is not yet working to its full capacity, defended the situation, explaining that they have only been in charge of the building since April, when the PCT was dissolved.

When it opened in January 2010, the centre, built under the Government’s private finance initiative on the Western Community Hospital site, promised to be a bustling health hub, serving some 20,000 registered patients.

But only 3,500 patients are registered at the GP surgery, after plans for local practices to move in failed, the third floor is home to Solent NHS Trust’s admin staff and there is no full walk-in centre.

Explaining why Brook House Surgery pulled out once the build was too far gone to halt, Dr Simpson said: “Initially surgeries in the area were approached about the idea for the build but when many said that they weren’t interested because the finances didn’t add up and then things seemed to go quiet.

“It wasn’t until sometime later that news came through that a surgery in Shirley, much further away, was interested in going forward with the move and it was at that point that we spoke up as the closest surgery to the centre, asking why we had never been approached.

“We came to the conclusion that if there was going to be a GP surgery in the centre, it may as well be us, rather than see ourselves put under threat from another practice moving into this new building.

“So we went down that line and were involved with the plans until the Government revealed new plans to have new GP practices set up in every health district in the country that would open seven days a week, open 8am until 10pm, which would receive special funding.

“It soon became apparent that this practice would also be based at Adelaide.

“We were going to be giving up our nice, family friendly building and going to this new centre where we would have to compete with another practice which was going to be getting special funding and so we ended up with the conclusion that we were better off sticking with where we were.”

When the Daily Echo called Victor Street Surgery, in Shirley, one named as a potential to make the move, they also confirmed that the build was going ahead before they were approached about moving in.

There is no question about the quality of the building or the services currently running there but critics want the centre fully utilised and to become the centre of excellence they were promised.

The majority of the services, including the walk-in nurse-led service, are run by Solent NHS Trust, which leases the space for £1.5m per annum on a 25-year contract.

Michael Parr, director of finance and performance at the trust, added that a “conversation” was under way with the landlord to boost services at the centre.