A FIASCO and a public relations disaster - that's the verdict on Monday night's aborted meeting on Malvern's new hospital.

The phrase came from Coun Ralph Madden, chairman of Malvern Town Council, but was echoed by many who came to the meeting.

Up to 500 people arrived at the Abbey Hotel's Elgar Suite, which is licensed to hold only 350 people.

That many seats had been laid out, and these were full 15 minutes before the meeting's start time of 6pm. More people kept flooding in, until the venue's upper level was packed with people standing.

The hotel would have been in breach of health and safety laws if the meeting had gone ahead.

Shortly after the start, primary care trust chairman David Barlow told the crowd that all those not seated would have to leave or the meeting could not proceed.

Coun Madden then proposed that the meeting be abandoned, but only if two new and better-publicised meetings were arranged.

Faced with an almost impossible situation, members of the public voted by a show of hands to support Coun Madden's proposal.

But as the crowd streamed out into the night, the anger and frustration were evident.

"The whole thing's absolutely ludicrous," said Dinah Sage.

"It doesn't give you much confidence in the PCT if they can't organise a meeting," said Marita Christian of College Grove.

Phil Hopkinson, of Alicante Close, agreed: "It wasn't very well organised. It doesn't give you much faith in their ability to organise a new hospital."

Mr Hopkinson echoed calls for a future meeting to be held at a much larger venue, suggesting the Three Counties Show-ground.

"It should also be later in the evening than 6pm. That's too early for a lot of people who have to come home from work," he said.

Pauline Stephens, of Lucerne Avenue, said: "I think the powers-that-be underestimate the feelings that are running quite high in the town over the hospital."