A relative of a patient at a hospital treating a terminally ill toddler has described visiting her loved one as “intimidating and scary”.
The woman claimed she had been verbally abused by supporters of Alfie Evans’ family at Alder Hey in Liverpool and called a protest held there “a circus”.
The hospital, which won a legal battle to withdraw Alfie’s life support, has urged protesters to show respect.
Protest group Alfie’s Army has been contacted for comment.
Alder Hey said noise from hundreds of protesters supporting the 23-month-old, including the sounding of car horns, was affecting its patients and staff.
‘Burn it down’
The woman, who did not want to be named, said people on her relative’s ward were being made anxious by the presence of police and additional security.
Visiting was “intimidating and horrendous” and she had even heard chants of “burn it down” from protesters which was “taking it too far”, she told BBC Radio Merseyside.
She continued: “Alder Hey is an absolutely amazing hospital and the staff are second to none; this should not be happening outside a children’s hospital.
“Children are passing away there, parents are being given devastating news every day; imagine how it feels when you leave that hospital and you are presented with that scene.”
She said she respects people’s right to protest peacefully but described Sunday’s demonstration as “out of control” and akin to a “circus” with “a bouncy castle, people drinking alcohol, [and] children running everywhere”.
She said: “Take it to a neutral ground so there is no impact upon other children, families or staff and they would gain a lot more respect for the cause.”
In February, the High Court ruled doctors could stop Alfie’s life support.
The case has returned to the Court of Appeal as his parents Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, attempt to discharge him for treatment in Italy.
A date was set last week at London’s High Court to terminate Alfie’s life support but it was not made public for legal reasons.
Alfie, from Bootle, Merseyside, has been at Alder Hey since December 2016 with an undiagnosed degenerative brain disease.
Alder Hey doctors say continuing to treat Alfie is “unkind” and “futile” but his parents want to take him to a hospital in Rome and say they have a private ambulance and jet on stand-by.
They lost a challenge at the Court of Appeal to the ruling he should have palliative care and failed to have the decision overturned at the Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights.
Alfie’s Army – as supporters call themselves – says on its official Facebook page protests are peaceful and has asked demonstrators to be “respectful”.
However, Alder Hey said in a statement: “Noise from recent protests has unfortunately affected our patients so we would ask that noise levels outside the hospital are kept to a minimum and, for example, car horns are not sounded.
“Loud noise affects sleep and raises anxiety levels for our patients especially when recovering from procedures, so please bear them in mind.”
The hospital said it had also put additional security measures in place but said it “remains fully operational” with A&E open for emergency care.
Police said the “large” and “peaceful” protest in Liverpool on Thursday night “did cause significant traffic disruption and inconvenience for other people trying to access the hospital”.