Shropshire Star

Ludlow bed push money refused as "not ok"

Health bosses have refused to accept thousands of pounds raised for a hospital by a group of men dressed as female nurses – as they have said such dressing up is "not ok".

Fundraisers on 2016's Ludlow Bed Push

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust has for the first time refused money raised from the annual Ludlow Bed Push, an event carried out in the south Shropshire town for about 20 years.

It sees a team of men in nurse-themed drag and run around the town collecting money every June – in recent years without a bed as modern ones are too high tech and expensive to wheel around the streets.

But this year Jan Ditheridge, chief executive of the trust, has said she is not comfortable with how the event portrays medical staff and has turned down the money.

Peter Corfield, chairman of the League of Friends, has criticised Ms Ditheridge's refusal of about £2,500 raised, calling it an "over-reaction".

But Ms Ditheridge said said she could not longer support the bed push.

She said: “It isn’t okay to portray healthcare professionals in this way. 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," she said.

The bed-push was the brainchild of Howard Watkins, lifetime president of the League of Friends.

Long-time chairman Mr Corfield said: "We have not had one single complaint about this event from members of the public.

"The bed push has over the years raised a substantial amount of money and the lads who do it are great supporters of the hospital.

"I need to talk to the lads who do this because it is effectively casting aspersions on their character.

"What Ms Ditheridge doesn't seem to be aware of is that the bed push was originally set up with the full co-operation of the hospital staff and has been happening in the town for about 18 to 20 years.

"Hospital staff have been involved with doing their make-up and, in the days when we actually pushed a bed around town, a member of staff was sometimes the person in the bed.

"I think it's an over-reaction to say that they will not accept the money.

"The money raised had already been earmarked and approved for the purchase of an ECG machine and we are now withdrawing that funding as per the diktat.

"Rather than cause further embarrassment, we will not be offering that money again," he said.

Bed push events are common around the country, with participants dressing up in all manner of fancy dress costumes, though many do not involve drag, going instead for pyjamas or doctor's scrubs.