A hospital has been criticised for refusing a charitable donation because the funds were raised by men wearing ‘sexy’ female nurse outfits.
Kind-hearted locals clubbed together to take part in the Ludlow Bed Push – which has been raising money for Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust for the past 30 years.
They managed to raise £2,500, which they wanted to give to the hospital to pay for ECG equipment but killjoy health chiefs turned down the money – because the team of fundraisers were dressed in drag which they have branded “insulting”, “highly-sexualised” and “demeaning”.
This refusal comes despite the group of lads not receiving a single complaint since setting up the annual charity event which has raised about £90,000 for Ludlow Hospital since 1987.
But this year Jan Ditheridge, chief executive of the trust, said she is not comfortable with how the event portrays medical staff and refused the cash.
In a letter to the Ludlow Hospital League of Friends, Ms Ditheridge and chair of the trust Mike Ridley, said: “The presentation of men dressed as female nurses in a highly-sexualised and demeaning way is wrong, very outdated and insulting to the profession.”
Peter Corfield, chairman of the League of Friends of Ludlow Hospital, described the refusal of the cash as “absolutely ridiculous.”
He said: “This bed push is a traditional thing, it’s taken place each summer in Ludlow for past 30 years that I can actually trace back in the minutes of the League.
“It was the brainchild of our late and long lamented Howard Watkins, long time president of the League – a tremendous Christian influence in the local area and number one nice guy.
“The event has always run with the full knowledge and support of the hospital and primary care trust management with participation by NHS staff.
“The whole thing is a light-hearted fundraiser which has raised between £2,500 and £6,500 each year and so over that period of time it’s a very tidy sum.
“In all this time the League has had no formal complaint at all other than these concerns expressed to me last year by Jan Ditheridge at the end of a one-to-one meeting we had.”
Mr Corfield added: “The letter from Ditheridge, especial the refusal of charitable funds from the League is a bit strong, especially coming from an organisation, i.e. the NHS, which allows a chief executive to retire and collect a £260,000 lump sum then return to work on a £185,000 salary the next day.
“I don’t think they’ve got any right to take the high ground on this.
“These guys, year after year, rain or shine, give up their free time to raise funds for the hospital – a hospital everyone here, including them, all hold dear, and of course they’re angry they’ve been singled out and demonised in this way.”
Mr Corfield confirmed that he told the hospital money would no longer fund the ECG equipment.
He said: “They were quite upset by that, now it’s up the NHS to decide where they will get the funds from.
“We have provided every bed in that hospital, every mattress, every piece of furniture in the wards, we built relative rooms and equipped them, a six-unit dialysis unit, minor injury equipment e.g. life pack monitors which have saved lives, ultra-scanning equipment, clinic equipment, physio equipment.
“On top of all this the same organisation is asking if we will fund £150,000 worth of X-ray.
“How are going to do that without using funds that may or may not be generated from a bed push?
“We’re really quite disappointed.”
One of the ‘nurses’ Mark Hiles, 45, a BT telecommunications engineer, of Ludlow, said: “In these times of austerity you’d expect they would want all the help they can get. Everyone loves it and nobody has complained about it.
“We are just a group of blokes trying to raise funds for our local community and have a laugh at the same time.”
Jan Ditheridge, chief executive of the trust, defended her stance, saying it “isn’t okay to portray healthcare professionals in this way”.
She added: “We have previously asked that this doesn’t happen and therefore don’t think it’s right to accept any money associated with this activity.
“I’m sure the event was organised with the best intentions and we are sorry if it’s made people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.
“Many people kindly and selflessly raise money for our organisation, and especially for our hospitals. We are eternally grateful for that.”