THE pressure is growing on health chiefs to think again about a decision to refuse a charitable donation of £2,500 for equipment at Ludlow Hospital.

It was collected as part of the ‘bed push’ that has been an annual event in Ludlow for more than a quarter of a century.

This involves men dressing up as nurses and other health workers to collect donations.

But the chiefs at the Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust said they would not accept the money because it involved the demeaning and sexualisation of nurses and NHS staff.

In a letter to Peter Corfield, Chairman of the League of Friends at Ludlow Hospital, the Trust’s chief executive Jan Ditheridge and chairman Mike Ridley say they had made in known last year that they were unhappy with the way the money is collected.

However, the decision has provoked a storm of protest with thousands of people signing an on-line petition calling for a change of heart.

Ludlow MP and Health Minister Philip Dunne also wants the NHS Trust to think again.

The MP has expressed his surprise at the revelation that Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust (ShropCom) has declined to accept a £2,500 donation from the League of Friends of Ludlow Community Hospital.

Philip Dunne, who donated to the fundraiser, said that he had written to ShropCom to ask them to reconsider.

“The hospital bed push has raised funds for the League of Friends of Ludlow Hospital for over 20 years,” said Philip Dunne.

“I support the great work the League of Friends does and will continue to do so and I have written to the chief executive of ShropCom to express my surprise that after so many years of receiving donations raised in this way.

“She did not write formally to the League of Friends in advance of this year’s fundraising, nor immediately following receipt of last year’s donation raised in a similar way, to indicate ShropCom’s strength of view and intent to decline future similar donations.

“Had they done so, I am sure the fundraisers would have had time to respond to raise money without causing such apparent offence.

“I have suggested that the trust might be able to see their way to accepting this donation this year, but to give notice now if they do not wish to do so again. Ultimately, it is a matter for ShropCom to decide whether to take donations or not.”

The petition again the refusal to accept the money reads: ‘The Ludlow hospital fundraisers dressing up in drag (an event the town has supported for 20 years) have raised a fantastic £2,500 - funds which were to pay for a new ECG machine.

‘This story has gained national news coverage because of its absurdity, and the over reactions of chief exec Jan Ditheridge. Having never received any complaints about this event, the only person who seems to have taken offence is the chief exec herself.

‘To turn down such vital funds in this era of public sector cuts, is not only an incredible insult to those who volunteer their time to fundraise, but also to the local community that continue to support this event year on year.

‘We call upon Jan Ditheridge and the Shropshire Community NHS Trust to retract their highly personalised position, and accept with thanks, the donations raised by these volunteers and the good people of Ludlow who have generously given money in their support of this event.’