An independent inquiry into standards of care at Stafford hospital has found that patients were “routinely neglected” by an NHS trust that was preoccupied with cost-cutting, targets and processes.
The inquiry chairman, Robert Francis QC, a medical law expert, made a total of 18 recommendations to both the trust and the government after taking evidence from more than 900 patients and families, and more than 80 staff.
Mr Francis said if there was one lesson to be learned, it was that ‘people must always come before numbers’.
Mr Francis said he had never heard so many cases of shocking care at Stafford Hospital, from people who expected, quite rightly, to be well cared for and treated.
The report found that patients left in filthy conditions were subjected to “considerable suffering, distress and embarrassment”, and said requests for a bedpan or help using the toilet were ignored.
Some relatives took soiled sheets home with them to wash, or changed bedding themselves.
The attitudes of some nurses, said the report, “left much to be desired”, accusing some staff of dismissing the needs of patients and their families.[
Mr Francis said the Department of Health should launch an independent review into how hospitals are monitored and failing trusts are identified.
He added: “The evidence gathered by this inquiry means there can no longer be any excuses for denying the scale of failure. If anything, it is greater than has been revealed to date. Individual patients and their treatment are what really matters.”
And he branded the failings at the NHS trust in charge as “systemic, deep rooted, and too fundamental to brush off as isolated incidents”.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham said there had been an “appalling failure” at every level of the hospital, and he was accepting all the recommendations in full.
To learn the lessons nationally, he urged everyone in the NHS to read it. But he insisted the events at Stafford “do not reflect the experience of millions of patients that use the NHS every day”.
Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said a full public inquiry was needed.
Today’s investigation was launched two months ago after a damning report by the Healthcare Commission revealed a catalogue of failings at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
The commission said hundreds of patients had been put at risk because of “appalling” standards of care. And it said that between 400 and 1200 more people had died at the hospital between 2005 and 2008 than would have been expected over that period.
Among the failings: heart monitors left switched off because nurses did not know how to use them, inadequately trained staff, and filthy wards.
Other shocking conditions were revealed with some patients left so thirsty they drank water from vases, while others lay screaming in pain.
But today’s inquiry, commissioned by the government, has already been branded a “whitewash” by campaigners.
They are furious that it was was held behind closed doors, and today they renewed calls for a full public investigation.
Julie Bailey, who founded the campaign group Cure The NHS after the death of her mother at the hospital, described the report as “absolutely outrageous”, saying all it was doing was recommending another independent inquiry.