'It was like being in prison' - Stafford Hospital nurses

A&E nurses Heather Gough and Mark Saville said the march through the town encouraged them to speak out

Two nurses at Stafford Hospital have likened their past experiences of working there to being "in prison".

A&E nurses Heather Gough and Mark Saville said they wanted to speak out about how the scandal affected them.

Staff were condemned for poor care, but independent inquiries acknowledged that nurses were working under unacceptable pressure at the hospital.

Ms Gough and Mr Saville still work there and say it is now a safe place.

In 2009, an investigation by the Healthcare Commission into the Mid Staffordshire Trust uncovered "appalling standards of care".

A £13m public inquiry in February led by Sir Robert Francis QC found serious failings at the hospital and concluded that patients had been "betrayed" because the NHS had put corporate self-interest ahead of patients.

Ms Gough, who has worked for 40 years as a nurse, said: "I've had colleagues that were spat at and called murdering bitches... I've never been in prison, but my analogy would be to be in prison for murder, for something that we individually hadn't done.

"But I'm not in denial either, I'm not saying that there wasn't poor care, because we know there was."

Short on staff

Start Quote

To go to the press would have been certain suicide, professional suicide, I would have lost my job”

End Quote Heather Gough Nurse at Stafford Hospital

Mr Saville, who began working at the hospital in 2006, said: "We worked shifts, we didn't have breaks. I used to joke that if they didn't give us breaks, we didn't drink, we wouldn't have to go to the toilet.

"We frequently stayed over as well because the staffing was so short in the department.

"I think every nurse that I worked with put in clinical incidents [forms] to the management - nothing happened... the copies of the incidents that we did, they disappeared."

In February, nurse Helene Donnelly spoke about conditions at A&E and how she submitted nearly 100 incident forms in a bid to alert managers.

Ms Gough said she felt "empowered" to speak out after witnessing people marching in Stafford to save the hospital in April.

She said: "To go to the press would have been certain suicide, professional suicide, I would have lost my job. So would anyone else that had gone to the press outside, you would have lost your job, there's no doubt about that.

"We walked into the Market Square, and the people, they've empowered me - 50,000 people of Stafford to feel free to speak out and to let them know that we really care, we are compassionate.

"I want them to know that they can come to their hospital and be looked after by people who do care."

Administrators running Stafford Hospital have asked for more time to plan the future of its services.

The Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust went into administration on 16 April after a report concluded it was not "clinically or financially sustainable".

In a statement, Maggie Oldham, chief executive of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust said: "We are extremely proud of our staff at both Stafford and Cannock Chase Hospitals. Despite all that they have been faced with over the past few years, they have continued to focus on improving the care for our patients.

"We are also very grateful for the support of so many local people. Their positive approach has been a real boost to staff morale."

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