Row breaks out on Facebook after SWFT post response to Shipston hospital campaigner's YouTube update
BITTER differences with a health trust over the future of a community hospital have been playing out on social media.
South Warwickshire Foundation Trust is at loggerheads with fundraisers over the Ellen Badger Hospital in Shipston in a row that has rumbled on for months.
Now Bryan Stoten, chair of the League of Friends of the Ellen Badger, has posted a YouTube video outlining their position on the proposed hospital rebuild.
In it, he says the league fundraised for decades for a new hospital and had given £635,000 to the trust on the understanding that it would go towards building one.
He adds: “For reasons unexplained, in October 2020 we were told that the foundation trust no longer supported the plans… Our legal advice is that we should ask SWFT to return our gift. Charity law is clear: charity money cannot be offered for benefit of non-charitable organisations.”
The video goes on: “We do not want to be in this situation. Only ten months ago we were promised a hospital. We are very sorry to have got to this point.”
He finishes with an appeal to write to MP Nadhim Zahawi if viewers share the concerns.
However, when approached by the Herald, Mr Zahawi declined to take sides. He said: “I have been very impressed with the fundraising work and determination of the Ellen Badger Hospital League of Friends and I appreciate their concerns regarding the planned phasing of the development.
“However, I do also recognise the importance of protecting the investment that has been put into the development by the South Warwickshire Foundation Trust.
“It is my understanding that the League of Friends has been seeking legal counsel concerning the relevant charity law in this case and therefore I don’t think it would be appropriate to intervene directly.
“It is right, providing the League of Friends goes ahead with legal action, that it is through that process a decision is made.”
In a long Facebook post shared on the Shipston page, SWFT hit back, accusing the League of making “misleading and inaccurate statements” and adding that it was “with huge regret that we are in a position where we have been drawn into a public disagreement with the League of Friends”.
It added: “Glen Burley, chief executive of SWFT, has responded to the solicitors once more clarifying the facts and stating how disappointed he is that the group are taking legal action and has made it clear that we have not engaged the trust’s solicitors at this point as he does not feel it is a good use of NHS or charitable funding to do so.”
The post concluded: “We have stated many times how exciting and unique this project is, so it is extremely disappointing that we are in this position as many areas would welcome such a development. This will be the most significant investment that the site has ever had and at a time when funding in healthcare is limited, we hope the community can recognise how beneficial what we are doing will be.”
Many residents reacted angrily to SWFT’s post. Richard Gray wrote: “For goodness’ sake, listen to those who are going to be on the end of your unique and exciting project. We want what we were promised – it’s called a hospital.”
Fundraiser Melanie Trapp, who ran a marathon, said: “I’m absolutely disgusted with the SWFT. Stop throwing mud and just promise Shipston the hospital will be rebuilt.”