The story of Stafford Hospital and failures in patient care leading up to the public inquiry.

Stafford Hospital preview

This documentary examines why it took years to uncover appalling levels of patient care at Stafford Hospital. Former patients and NHS workers explain why alarmingly high death rates at the hospital were ignored.

The story of Stafford Hospital

On the day the Public Inquiry into Stafford Hospital publishes its findings, The Hospital That Didn’t Care looks at the story of Stafford Hospital.

Former patients, staff, and relatives of people who died whilst in the care of Stafford Hospital tell the programme of their experiences and their fight to uncover the truth.

A former nurse in Stafford Hospital A&E, who repeatedly tried to raise her concerns with hospital managers, tells The Hospital That Didn’t Care how staff shortages and the push to achieve Foundation Trust status had an impact of the level of patient care.

Helene Donnelly also reveals how staff were encouraged to make it look like they were hitting targets when actually they weren’t:

“The main culprits would routinely do this but moreover they would actually encourage other staff to do it – doctors and nurses. And if they didn't want to - such as myself - they would become very aggressive and bullying basically into making people do it.

“Patients were left in horrific situations… Seeing people dying in very, very undignified situations which could have been avoided. They weren't just one-offs now and again. They were relatively frequent. And just on a daily basis the poor care and poor standards should never have been allowed.”

Before handing in her resignation, she repeatedly raised her concerns with managers:

“Things didn't get listened to or acted upon as perhaps they should have done. And that was one of the main failings because it went right to the top that people were just not listening and didn't want to know. And I think that's why things got so extreme at Stafford.”

Former patient Nicola Monte, who caught three hospital superbugs while being treated at Stafford Hospital for a bowel condition, tells The Hospital That Didn’t Care:

“I found out that I had MRSA by a nurse walking into my isolation room and she just literally walked inside the door and threw a piece of paper in my direction. I was sitting on the bed. And she said: “Read this you've got MRSA… I thought the only way I'd get out of there was in a wooden box.”

On the announcement of a public inquiry Nicola says:

“I struggle to find any satisfaction in knowing we were right all along. I was made to feel that I was the exception, that this sort of thing was – you know – I was the unfortunate one person that this had happened to and it was how I responded to the situation. But it wasn't. Lots of people were suffering and still continue to suffer today.”

Christine Dalziel, the wife of another former patient, tells The Hospital That Didn’t Care, of her visits to her husband George after an operation at Stafford Hospital:

“They were just completely left on their own all the time. And if they rang bells it was very rare if the nurses or anybody came to see them.

Christine describes how her husband lost three and a half stone during his two weeks in the hospital:

“I helped to get his jacket off so she could examine him. When I did his bones were just sticking out like that in his back … and I said to her what on earth are you doing to him… he shouldn't be like this … One thing I was really pleased about that night when we were leaving I was hugging him and I said I love you and he said I love you too and that was the last words we said.”

Julie Bailey, whose mother Bella Bailey died in Stafford Hospital in 2007, tells the programme:

“Mum's care was absolutely appalling. There was no medication, there was no proper food for her, she was lying in a wet bed. If it hadn't had been for us there with her we would have lost her in the first week.

“I was told that they couldn't leave drinks out at night because of health and safety. So what the confused patients would do was just get out of bed and the first thing they found was a flower vase – and just drink out of a flower vase. It was just absolutely ridiculous.”

Alan Johnson MP, and former Health Secretary (2007-2009), tells the programme:

“In a sense that suggests that actually the Chief Executive was right to cut staff and put receptionists on triage nursing because he was under so much pressure. I don't accept that at all. That was an absolute poor, disgracefully poor management of that hospital. …We were appalled by Stafford. I publicly apologised. I apologised on behalf of the Department of Health for what happened at Stafford. It was dreadful. It was awful and it should never have happened. Should I have done something to pick it up earlier? Maybe. I don't know.”

Dr Heather Wood, former Healthcare Commission investigator who conducted a surprise visit to Stafford Hospital A&E in 2008, tells The Hospital That Didn’t Care:

“Virtually everywhere that we looked there were problems, whether as I say it was in the A&E department or on the medical wards or on the emergency surgical wards, you know, problems were there. Simple compassion and kindness - those were missing.

“But also the more technical side of things, you know, whether observations were done properly or recorded properly whether equipment was used properly. Can you imagine a situation in which because nurses don't understand cardiac monitors and are annoyed by their bleeping – they turn the monitors off?”

The hospital's new chief executive Lynn Hill-Tout says the quality of care has improved: "I think the care is very much better than it was two or three years ago... We don't get it right every time. But I think that the standards have dramatically improved."