In his fifth and final report, Robert Francis QC has concluded the care provided by Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2008 represented “an appalling failure at every level”.

A public inquiry was called for when the 2009 Healthcare Commission report uncovered routine failings at the hospital, including receptionists assessing whether or not to treat patients, a gross shortage of nurses and a catalogue of preventable deaths.

However, the issue was initially highlighted in 2007 by the friends and families of those who had suffered at the hands of Stafford Hospital. They launched a campaign group called Cure the NHS, specially designed to highlight the problems endemic across the hospital and the Mid-Staffordshire Trust.

They drew attention to the ways in which patients were being continually neglected. Some were left to lie in soiled sheets which relatives were left to wash. Many were left without enough food and drink, forcing them to drink water from vases containing flowers. Adequate treatment was withheld, and patients could be heard screaming in agony. As a previous report by Mr Francis stated, the care was “ineffective”, “lacking in compassion” and suffused with an “uncaring attitude”.

Thankfully, their voice was heard and the Healthcare Commission was stung into action. The Mid-Staffs scandal was subsequently exposed, and it was found that around 400 more patients died at the hospital between 2005 and 2008 than would have been expected.

It soon became apparent that this culture of abuse had been overlooked by staff and NHS regulators for more than a decade, during which time the Trust had actually been climbing up the NHS ratings ladder. In 2008 it was even granted Foundation status, causing Martin Yeates, former chief executive of the trust, to declare: “we have joined the premier league.”

In response to one of the worst scandals ever to hit the NHS, the Government set up an inquiry, led by Mr Robert Francis QC. In his final report, he said patients had been “let down” by Stafford Hospital, which he believes “put corporate self-interest ahead of patients”. He has made 290 recommendations that, if implemented, would promote a zero tolerance approach to poor care.

While the recommendations may help protect future patients, this will be a small comfort for the families of those who died needlessly at Stafford Hospital. During her hospital admission in 2006, Jane Locke was left in sheets soiled with faeces. She went on to contract three hospital superbugs, from which she did not survive. As her mother June says: “We want to see the [recommendations] in practice and working”, but “we lost a daughter and you can’t get over that”.

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