WORK on a much-delayed multi-million hospital has already cost the taxpayer millions, it has emerged.

The Aneurin Bevan Health Board says £8.5 million was spent on two studies to show the Specialist and Critical Care Centre in Llanfrechfa is needed.

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, called on the Welsh Government to make a decision on when work will start on the hospital.

According to the health board the original outline business case for the site, which was submitted to the Welsh Government for approval in March 2008, cost £3.7 million and suggested the project would cost £295 million.

In March 2011 and ahead of that year's election Edwina Hart, who was then health minister, promised that the hospital would be built.

But Cardiff officials asked the health board to prepare another business case and reduce the estimated costs for the hospital.

The second outline case, which estimated the hospital would cost £241 million, cost £4.8 million and was submitted to the Welsh Government in December 2012.

Ms Williams, whose party obtained the figures through the Freedom of Information Act, said: "Now the second outline business case is complete, it is time for the Welsh Labour Government to make a decision.

"If the minister once again claims the projected cost is too high, then it will mean that all this time the Welsh Labour Government have just been too weak to admit they never intended to build the care centre.

"Either the Welsh Labour Government agrees to start building this project, or they have disgracefully spent millions just to try and cover up their cynical pre-election announcement."

The SCCC was the flagship of the ambitious Clinical Futures project, launched ten years ago to modernise Gwent's hospital services.

But when the downturn began to hit, planning work on the SCCC was suspended in 2008.

It was resurrected in 2010 and outline planning approval for the site was approved by Torfaen last November.

A spokeswoman for the health board said Laing O'Rourke was appointed to do the work.

She said the firm's expertise was not available within the board, and added the Welsh Government had not indicated when it will make a decision.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "The Outline Business Case was submitted to the Welsh Government on 17 December 2012. An initial review will be completed by the end of January and the issues arising will need to be considered by Aneurin Bevan Health Board. The Health Minister will ensure Assembly Members are kept informed of progress."