A calender featuring Tory MPs posing with scantily-clad women has backfired by insulting the nurses it was supposed to be supporting.

MPs Tim Loughton, for Worthing East and Shoreham, and Peter Bottomley posed for postcard pictures with women in fishnets and saucy low-cut nurse uniforms.

The calendar, which was organised by restaurateur Andrew Sparsis, was put together to raise money for the Keep Worthing and Southlands Hospital (KWASH) campaign.

The MPs are pictured alongside female staff from Mr Sparsis's two Worthing restaurants, Food and The Fish Factory.

Some hospital employees have taken insult at the £5 calendar, describing it as sexist and demeaning.

Su Burns, who works at Worthing Hospital, said: "Nurses are angry and rightly so. The Tories are using sexist material. A lot of us are very upset by these pictures."

Steve Brazier, of health union Unison, asked: "What century do these dinosaurs think they are in?"

Another hospital worker, who asked not to be named, said: "I think it offended quite a few of the nurses. It is old-fashioned and I'm very surprised by it.

"They could have done something really good, with pictures from around the hospital showing all the hard work that's done here."

KWASH chairman Tom Wye has given his full backing to the calendar, which he described as "light seaside humour".

He said he had heard "very, very few complaints" about the calendar.

The former Worthing mayor said: "Most people have thumbed through it and had a good laugh.

"It was not meant to belittle the nurses. I'd say 99 out of a 100 people didn't have a problem with it.

"It didn't raise as much as we wanted but it's been something we can give away on our open days and has helped to spread the word about the campaign.

"It was all done in the best interests of KWASH."

Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West and husband of former health secretary Virginia, also defended his part in the calendar, saying: "This was a community initiative to help the hospital and you'd have to be a party pooper to say no to it."

Mr Sparsis, who came up with the idea, estimated the stunt raised about £5,000 for campaign funds.

He said the photographer, designer and models all worked for free on the calendar, which was shot in a mocked-up hospital ward built in a corner of The Fish Factory with props borrowed from the hospital.

He said: "It hasn't backfired and it hasn't insulted anyone. It's not smutty. There's no nudity - it's done in a comical way. All the nurses backed it. The only person who has complained is one retired midwife.

"We just want to push the issue of the hospital closure to the front of everyone's minds."

Under the Fit for the Future proposals, the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton would become a major specialist centre while services such as A&E and maternity are at risk of being lost at hospitals in Worthing, Haywards Heath and Chichester.

The proposals have been criticised by campaigners across the county including hospital medics, GPs, MPs and tens of thousands of residents who say lives will be lost if patients are forced to go on longer journeys for urgent treatment.

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