UK & World News
Stafford Hospital Report To Change Face Of NHS
A landmark report published into the Stafford Hospital scandal could change the face of healthcare in Britain.
Fundamental reforms will be called for by Robert Francis QC who has led an investigation into why as many as 400 to 1,200 more people died than would have been expected between 2005 and 2008.
The failure of the regulatory bodies has come under particular scrutiny. In 2007, Stafford was given a good rating from the Healthcare Commission, whose job it was to monitor the quality of care.
It will be the fifth major investigation into needless deaths and "appalling standards of care" at Stafford, but the first to be public and independent.
A previous report by Mr Francis noted "shocking" systemic failures of hospital care in Mid Staffordshire.
Patients were routinely neglected, humiliated and in pain as the trust focused on cost-cutting and reaching government targets.
The fight for this latest inquiry was led by Julie Bailey who began the Cure The NHS campaign after her mother died in 2007 in what she called a chaotic ward. People were left in soiled sheets, and dehydrated patients drank from flower vases.
She said of the Francis report: "This is about making sure that this is never allowed to happen again. This is about making sure every hospital is safe.
"This is about people knowing that if they put their loved ones in hospital they are safe and that the hospital is not dangerously out of control."
The death of Deb Hazeldine's 67-year-old mother Ellen is one shocking example of what was happening at Stafford.
"I will never get over it," said Ms Hazeldine who admits that she still struggles to cope more than six years after her loss.
Her mother, who was being treated for cancer, contracted C. difficile and MRSA in Stafford.
"She died of C. diff. When she died we had a call from the undertaker that stated that mum had so many hospital infections she had to be buried in a sealed body bag because she would contaminate the ground she went into," said Ms Hazeldine.
Stafford Hospital continues to be plagued by complaints. In March 2010, 61-year-old Alan Nash walked into the hospital for a routine colonoscopy. But Alan's bowel was perforated and he died the same day.
His daughter Marie Hillman said: "We felt that all eyes would be on Stafford so there would not be any mistakes. Obviously it is one of the biggest regrets I have that we talked him into going."
His wife Jenny Nash said: "I did hear. It was just like somebody had been punched in the stomach where you get that gasp, if you like. It was quite loud. I think that's when they actually perforated it."
Ms Hillman added: "A nurse said to me, you will probably find that this happened at home, this happened before he came in. And I thought there is no way this happened at home."
She maintains that they have still not had an apology. The hospital has not accepted that it breached any duty of care in the case of Mr Nash.
Mr Francis will urge sweeping changes across the whole of the NHS today.
There is likely to be the threat of fines or even closure for hospitals found to have covered up mistakes by doctors and nurses.
The role and make-up of regulatory bodies will be reassessed, better training schemes will be introduced and patients and their families will be given a stronger voice.
The charity Action Against Medical Accidents has already said that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt should accept Mr Francis' recommendations in full, saying they should include minimum ward staffing levels and regulation of health care assistants.
The Royal College of Nursing has expressed serious concerns that nursing numbers and low morale has put the service under enormous strain.
A number of individuals may face criticism in the report. Martin Yeates was chief executive of the Mid-Staffs Trust at the height of the scandal. He left with a big pay-off "by mutual agreement".
The now NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson was with the local regional health authority for some of the time.
Campaigners and nursing organisations believe the Stafford scandal is part of a wider problem.
Everyone will hope that the report will be the catalyst for major changes.