It has been a curious week for Ludlow. No one could have predicted that a local spat over a donation over a £2,500 would have led to a national row that went viral on social media and was splashed across print media. Just about all the national broadcast stations have covered the story. I have seen reports on ITV, debates on BBC and LBC, and coverage in almost every national and regional newspaper.

It is time for Philip Dunne to speak. He should tell us whether he stands on fundraising and expression of gender in the NHS.

The essence of the story is that Shropshire Community Health Trust has turned down a donation because it was raised by men in drag, posing as nurses. That’s what they have done for more than twenty years. But this year, the trust has ruled the event out of order.[1]

I think Shropshire Community Health Trust is a decade or more behind society.

The argument is based around serious issues about how we deal with sexual discrimination in the workplace and the way we understand gender.

Most people I have heard from think the health trust is wrong to refuse the donation. Others don’t agree and are highlighting issues with sexism in the health service.

This row has not been about sexism but it highlights the reality that the NHS has a long way to go before it becomes a truly equal organisation. That’s an issue for the health bosses that run the 8,749 organisations that deliver publicly funded health in England, including Shropshire Community Health Trust. From what people are saying, many health trusts are not up to speed on equality in areas like nursing and fail to deal with sexist issues in the workplace. That’s wrong and it should not happen in 2017.

Returning to the event, Shropshire Community Health Trust says: “This negative imagery reinforces old-fashioned stereotypes, demeaning the profession and inhibiting recruitment.”

They have a point about the stereotypes but I seriously doubt that a fund raising event in a small town like ours inhibits recruitment.

This brings us to gender.

In the 1980s and 1990s, we became very strict on the way people, jobs and roles were talked about. We were totally right in dropping the orthodoxy that some jobs were man jobs. We adopted a more equal language and along with it a less discriminatory attitude. That was the right thing to do but it never went far enough.[2] At times, there was too much concentration on the way that people were described, not how they were advanced throgh their careers.

Fast forward to 2017. Most people I talk to do not think about gender now. We all recognise that sexuality, gender, covers a very wide spectrum. How people are attracted to each other, what they do – providing it’s not abusive – is not a matter for society at large or the public sector.

Alongside this we have continued our tradition of laughing at each other. Taking the mick out of our differences, our imperfections and our failure to remove stereotypes. I don’t think we should clamp down on fun events that are cross gender.

The job of society and our democratic system is to allow loving relationships, regardless of gender. That is where we should be putting our effort.

There are fossilised organisations like Shropshire Council that insists a on gender title in its paperwork. For example, one recent minute said, “The Chairman, Mrs A Hartley, took the Chair.” Why? She is Councillor Ann Hartley and that is how she should be referred to. We don’t need to say Mrs, Ms or Mr. Just Councillor Hartley would suffice.

Philip Dunne has decided to keep out the debate. As health minister and local MP, he should be speaking out loud on this. He can’t duck below the radar. All the rest of us have spoken. He needs to tell us what he thinks and what the NHS is doing.

The people I talk to see gender as gender is. They see humour as humour is. And they see humour as the best medicine.


[1]. Shropshire Community Health Trust has spoken to the media about this debacle. But it has yet to publish a formal statement on its website.

[2]. This is not just a health service issue. When did anyone last see a woman emptying waste and recycling bins? Every contractor that comes to my social housing flat is a bloke. But these are not bloke jobs. Just a culture that expects that some jobs are done by men.

7 thought on “MP Dunne must speak out on the hospital row and back fundraisers”
  1. It defies belief that something done in good humour and offended no one save the Ludlow hospital administrator should stop us all benefitting from the fundraisers kind act.
    Perhaps he/she should voluntarily give their wages to the sum raised in recompense.
    I have seen hundreds of fundraisers of this type/kind and it is all taken in good humour,
    Shame on them, true shame – it would be nice if the person could appear in public and explain in a public meeting why they turned away money to help local people and show their faces both in press and on television.
    I imagine they won’t due to the enormous majority of people who think that they are wrong and denying sick people better equipment.

  2. MP Dunne as usual is in hiding as he is protecting his job as a Health Minister of course.
    He manages to avoid local issues so he can pursue his career at Westminster and let’s face it with his majority he can just shrug and lie low and wait for the storm to pass.
    It would be great to have a local, visible MP maybe one day….

    1. In response to your comment I shall petition him, I think all readers of this comment need to get out their thinking caps on and write….if thats all we can do then we should…

  3. It would be interesting to see what is said if women nurses dressed as men nurses.What sort of furore would happen then.

  4. It is as unlikely that Philip will commit himself either side of this pathetic situation, as there is any chance of the “holier-than-thou” Ludlow hospital administrator being sacked for self-opinuated stupidity, insisting on action which is detrimental to the interests and needs of patients … rather like J the Hunt.

  5. I disagree with you on this , Andy , League of Friends had £660k in their accounts as of March 2017 (charity commission submission). I reckon that would’ve bought 300 ecg machines (if needed).

    They were informed of Trusts unease of this collecting – and this is in 2016 remember-to go ahead in 2017 they must have known they risked reputational damage if other complaints were made.

  6. It appears that Mr Dunne has actually commented and given his support to the fundraisers:-

    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.”

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