A campaign group has criticised a “flawed” survey which gave people their say on new hospital buildings.

The New Hospital Campaign says the online survey by West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust was “rushed, flawed and biased” and was “unfairly designed” to favour redevelopment at Watford General Hospital.

However, the hospital trust has said the intention of the survey was to “reach out” to communities and to “draw out views” from people they have not heard from.

Earlier this month the trust drew up a shortlist of redevelopment options which only focuses on redeveloping its existing sites in the three areas it covers – Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

Read more - No central site listed for West Hertfordshire hospital redevelopment

While the trust could have as much as £590 million to invest in its facilities, campaigners want to see a new hospital built centrally to the three areas the hospital trust covers.

Residents were invited to take part in a survey, which has now closed, giving their views on the trust's shortlist, with a decision expected in October.

However, the New Hospital Campaign says the survey had been “wide open to manipulation”.

The campaign group says the survey had not provided the public with “genuine options” and was published the same day as the shortlist.

It also criticised that people had just 11 days to complete the survey – and claimed it contained questions “encouraging the public to support options at Watford General Hospital in Vicarage Road”.

A statement from the campaign group read: “The survey does not reach any accepted standard of objectivity and it would be highly misleading to use it in the decision process regarding the proposed short-list and the recommended preferred option.  It must not be presented as an accurate representation of public opinion."

Jean Ritchie, a member of the New Hospital Campaign, added: “We are coming to the crunch point for the future of hospital services in West Herts. The October 1 meeting will decide on the shortlist for redevelopment.

“If the Trust try to make out that this inadequate, easily manipulated survey truly represents the views of the people of West Herts, the whole process will be in crisis, with the credibility of the local NHS leadership in tatters.”

Helen Brown, deputy chief executive of West Herts Hospitals Trust, said that its “intention with the survey was to reach out to communities we had not heard from”.

She added: “ We also wanted to give staff the opportunity to comment on the proposed shortlist. We are very keen to hear from residents in all the areas we cover and so the survey was designed to draw out views from new audiences as well as bring people up to speed on our plans. We are satisfied that the survey response time was sufficient. It was publicised widely.

“Both NHS boards will consider and take the responses into account when they meet next month to approve the shortlist of options.”

Mrs Brown continued: “The shortlist options are all based on our current three hospital sites and do not include any ‘new’ or ‘greenfield’ sites. This is because the independent site feasibility study concluded that these options would take longer to deliver and carry a higher risk of overall failure.

“As outlined in the briefing note published with the survey, the proposed options prioritise investment in emergency and specialist care services at Watford General Hospital because this site sees the highest number of patients and those with the most acute clinical need. It is also the site where, overall, the buildings are in the poorest condition.”

She added that people are invited to make a representation at the October board meeting to express their views.

She continued: “We are following guidelines set by the government on how we conduct our appraisal process."

Anyone who would like to make a representation can email westherts.redevelopment@nhs.net before midday on Wednesday September 23 to submit their request.

Further information is on the trust's website.