The real scandal around Ludlow Hospital is that an NHS Hospital relies on charitable donations to buy something as basic as an ECG machine.
The decision of the Chief Executive of Shropshire Community NHS, Jan Ditheridge, to refuse to accept a charitable donation to allow Ludlow hospital to get an ECG machine for use by outpatients has been met by outrage. On social media, people from Ludlow are almost unanimous in condemning the decision, and there has been a similar response from the national media.
Shropshire Defend Our NHS has been asked to make a statement on the issue.
We believe the only reason this issue could have come up at all is that the NHS is so underfunded that it depends on charitable donations to meet its most basic needs. In the past, the Ludlow Hospital League of Friends has even raised money for hospital beds.
Jan Ditheridge has been pleased in the past to accept funds from events where men dress up as nurses – after all this has been an annual event for over 20 years. So why the change now?
Is it because she has suddenly become aware of a problem that affects the well-being of the staff at the hospital?
Not likely. Shropshire Defend Our NHS has repeatedly raised with senior Trust executives, including Jan Ditheridge, our concerns about staff being bullied by managers at the hospital. In every case the issues were ignored and no action was taken. And the Chief Executive has just signed a contract that involves cutting the number of Health Visitors by 40-45%. The Trust doesn’t want to pay redundancy money, so they plan to shift the ‘displaced’ staff to unsuitable lower paid jobs in the hope that they will leave of their own accord.
What is most likely is that there are plans to close the hospital completely. Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group, the paymasters locally, have already given the Community Trust notice that they may decommission the beds and the Minor Injuries Unit at the hospital. We are awaiting the CCG’s review of community services, a cost cutting measure, that means that community hospitals and other community NHS services are under threat.
It almost always costs more to provide services in market towns and rural areas than it does in larger towns. That’s because we can’t get economies of scale – so services for rural communities have suddenly become unaffordable. That’s the main reason SaTH, the hospital trust, has closed the rural maternity units. But the health needs of patients in market towns and the countryside are just the same.
So, we think there are other reasons for turning down the money, ones that the hospital bosses are trying to keep quiet about. Jan Ditheridge either doesn’t want to be embarrassed by accepting donations for hospital equipment a few months before a closure is announced, or is using this issue as a distraction from what is really happening.
We are demanding that Jan Ditheridge accepts the donation, not just because the hospital needs an ECG, but reflecting the strong message from the community of Ludlow that we WILL fight to retain our hospital.
Ludlow, Bishop’s Castle, Whitchurch, and Bridgnorth all need their community hospitals. They provide vital services in these towns and to people in the surrounding areas. Their closure would make it very difficult for many, especially, the elderly, to get the care they need when the alternative locations are so far away. And we urgently need the reopening of three rural Maternity Units as well!
But just because we believe the £2,500 should be accepted by the Trust doesn’t mean there can be no questions about how the money was raised. No one is suggesting that the men who dressed up as nurses did it as anything but as a bit of fun, and of course in support of the hospital. The nurses from Ludlow Hospital who have posted on social media have denounced Jan Ditheridge and supported the charity event.
Some younger nurses, though, have questioned this method of raising funds. In an article in the Guardian, Danielle Tiplady, who was one of the national organisers of the student nurses campaign against the ending of nurses’ bursaries, said “I find it bamboozling that people can’t see there’s a problem with it… They are sexualising what we do. How are we expecting people to take us seriously?”
This complaint has been echoed by a local leader of the student nurses campaign who has opposed the idea of men dressing up as female nurses: “sexism in healthcare is a huge issue: men dressing as ‘sexy’ female nurses perpetuates this.”
This is a concern that should be addressed.
We can’t take the Chief Executive seriously as a spokesperson for nurses. She would be just as willing to sack them. But maybe, as a way forward, the charity organisers could have a discussion with the nurses who believe they are being sexualised or demeaned by this type of drag event. Perhaps by next year, we could have an event that everyone could support. And one which was raising money for extras, not basic equipment – in a hospital that stays open.
And in the meantime, let’s keep up the pressure over a decision that has alienated virtually everyone in Ludlow. Supporters of the charity event have started a petition to put pressure on the Trust. Why not sign it?