A public meeting to discuss the future of three hospitals has been described as a "total sham" by Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning.

But hospital bosses said they were "pleased" that more than 100 people turned out to hear about the latest redevelopment plans.

Campaigners, supporters, and politicians were in Bushey last night for a two hour meeting which was the first since West Herts Hospitals Trust and Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group announced its preferred four options ahead of a potential £350m investment from central government in west Hertfordshire.

WHHT is currently fighting for the "desperately needed" investment at its hospitals in Watford, St Albans, and Hemel Hempstead.

While new hospital campaigners have been calling for a new emergency care site somewhere between Hemel and St Albans, the trust and CCG are instead looking at options of major investment in Watford.

'Option 1' which was voted for by all but one member of a stakeholder panel at a CCG board meeting last week, would see most of the investment at Watford General Hospital.

Read more: Everything you need to know about Option 1

Read more: St Albans politicans react to hospital investment plans

HVCCG chief executive Kathryn Magson opened the meeting describing the journey the trust had been on and how they wanted to "unlock the capital they desperately need".

There were several speakers from the trust including chief executive Christine Allen, deputy chief exec Helen Brown, chief nurse Tracey Carter, and chief financial officer Don Richards.

Urology consultant Freddie Banks spoke about the need to create a 'one stop service' - the planned cancer service in St Albans rather than spreading scans and operations across and three sites and outsourced hospitals.

There were plenty of new hospital campaigners in the crowd who questioned why it had taken the trust "so long" to get to this stage and why they had "discounted" a new hospital. Hospital bosses said it could not go over £350m.

Read more: Hospital campaigners come up with their own designs for hospital site

Regulators use trust annual turnover as the threshold for proposed investment, which for WHHT is £350m. Turnover is seen as a reliable guide to the amount a trust can afford because an annual dividend needs to be paid by the trust on the investment they receive. An investment of £350m would require annual dividend payments of approximately £18m.”

The trust says a new hospital would cost in the region of £600m-£700m - but this was disputed by Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning.

He added: "The board has no interest in listening to local people. This is an appalling decision. The trust is spending £350 million – nearly all of it on the Watford site. Less than 3 per cent will be spent in Hemel Hempstead. The trust make no pretence of taking on board any comments from local people and local campaigners.

“I am sad and disappointed, but not surprised. The meeting was a total sham.”

But there was support for the investment plans in Watford.

West Watford Labour county councillor Cllr Nigel Bell said people in Watford had "compromised" too because he says they were looking forward to a new 600 bed hospital in the town but said accepting option 1 would at least "guarantee vital new build at Watford" as well as keep A&E facilities in the town.

Watford Lib Dem councillor Cllr Ian Stotesbury added: "We need investment across all our NHS sites in West Herts. At the meeting I asked about treatment for the most vulnerable and it was great to hear that the preferred option is expanding emergency services at Watford General."

Read more: Watford Mayor backs hospital investment in town

During the meeting, the Watford buildings were described by bosses as not "fit for purpose" and Anna Wood, deputy medical director at WHHT, said 57 per cent of the hospital's buildings in the town did not meet the required condition. Mr Banks added that morale would be "lifted enormously" if the Watford hospital saw major refurbishment.

The CCG and WHHT thanked more than 100 people for turning out and said it wants to continue to hear views ahead of decision-making board meetings on July 11.

In a joint statement, the two bodies said: "We know some continue to press for a new hospital - an option that simply cannot be considered further because of the costs. In order to secure much-needed funding to improve hospital facilities, we must present to regulators, one of the four realistic and affordable options.

"If we don’t pursue a realistic proposal, then we know we will fail in our efforts to obtain the investment that is so key to the delivery of decent hospital services in west Hertfordshire."