MALVERN Community Hospital was given a royal seal of approval when the Princess Royal formally opened the new £17 million building.

About 60 people, many waving Union flags, lined the drive to the hospital as the royal party arrived in two Range Rovers at 2.30pm yesterday.

Wearing a beige coat with a dark brown handbag and gloves, the Princess waved at the crowd before she was introduced to local dignitaries outside the hospital.

She then met matron Lin Ingles, who welcomed her inside and spoke with her about both the new hospital and its predecessor at Lansdowne Crescent.

The Princess was then given a tour of the hospital, meeting patients and staff.

Addressing invited guests gathered at the nurse station, she said: “You have had a hospital, built 100 years ago, that has done good service, and it is clear that you have supported it well and understood its importance to the community.

“It is patently obvious that you have all put a lot of work into securing a suitable successor.

"I think of the classic example of the swan – the serene bit on the top and underneath several years of paddling like hell.”

She then joked: “You have earned your new community hospital and I sincerely hope that not too many of you need to come here.”

Before unveiling a plaque to mark the occasion she said: “I hope this will serve the community for as long as the previous hospital.”

Before the royal visit, a plaque was unveiled dedicating the new minor injuries unit to campaigner Pat Merrick and her former colleagues on the League of Friends.

Mrs Merrick said: “It feels great to have reached this point. I always believed it would happen, although at times it seemed further away.

“The hospital is everything I hoped it would be. Once we finally established the fact that we were getting it, everything has gone like a dream.”

Mrs Merrick also paid tribute to the work of former Worcestershire Primary Care Trust chief executive Paul Bates, who was not at the opening.

She said: “It really is down to the fact that we had such a forward-thinking chief executive that we have this hospital.

"He deserves as much credit as anyone.”

Malvern’s MP Harriett Baldwin said: “I know that Lin Ingles and her staff do an amazing job and it was wonderful that Princess Anne was able to officially open the facility.

“There is no doubt that we have a hospital to be really proud of and I hope that this building will serve the people of Malvern as well as its predecessor did.”