A YORK hospice has confirmed that four nurses accepted demotions rather than be dismissed over their involvement in a lockdown breach at a pub.

St Leonard’s Hospice said this alternative sanction - involving a move from Band 6 down to a lower paid Band 5 - was offered to those concerned, and they were given "reasonable time" to consider the options.

The hospice’s comments came as it faced a furious online backlash from some people to news, revealed in The Press yesterday, that a nurse and two healthcare assistants had been dismissed over a gathering in a pub beer garden involving 19 members of staff on Sunday, May 16, before social distancing regulations were relaxed.

Some condemned the action as "unduly harsh", while others backed it, saying staff’s actions put hospice patients at risk.

One said: "The crime does not suit the punishment. This should have been a written warning and not a dismissal," while a second said: “The level of sanctions is preposterous.”

But another said: “They knew the rules, they should not have done it, simple really,” and a second said: "The law is the law, we don’t get to pick and choose which ones we follow.”

Some critics claimed the event would not have broken the rules had it happened just eight hours later when lockdown was relaxed.

However, the hospice said social distancing was still required for another two months despite the relaxing of some other restrictions, and the lack of appropriate distancing would still have broken rules.

Some claimed the staff mostly sat at socially distanced tables and only came together briefly for photos.

But the hospice said photos posted on publicly available social media accounts demonstrated a repeated lack of social distancing, with attendees freely moving around between the group, including many hugging and in very close proximity to one another.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that York Central MP Rachael Maskell has met some of the affected employees, has concerns about what has happened and has arranged to meet the chair of the hospice board of trustees next Friday.

Ms Maskell told The Press: “I am hoping to find a positive resolution to this situation.”