Stoke & Staffordshire

Stafford Hospital: Ex-minister Ben Bradshaw gives evidence

Ben Bradshaw advising a Parliamentary Select Committee against holding a public inquiry
Image caption Ben Bradshaw gave evidence at the public inquiry he had argued against holding

An ex-health minister has told a public inquiry of his surprise at the lack of complaints made about Stafford Hospital before a damning report in 2009.

The inquiry is examining the role of regulatory bodies after the Healthcare Commission found "appalling care" at the hospital between 2005 and 2008.

The report said there had been a higher than expected number of deaths there.

Ben Bradshaw told the inquiry he would have expected GPs, families and local media to have raised the issue earlier.

'Inexplicably late'

Mr Bradshaw, Labour's Minister of State for Health Services between 2007 and 2009, said Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust was already a "disaster" when it was granted foundation status in February 2008.

He said complaints about the trust did not begin to emerge until December 2007 and January 2008.

Mr Bradshaw denied the Department of Health had put pressure on hospitals to apply for foundation status.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, he said: "What astounded me reading the Healthcare Commission report was why there weren't much louder alarm bells ringing or red lights flashing long before that.

"The disquiet around this hospital that one would normally expect as a minister, given what was going on here, came inexplicably late in my view."

He asked: "Where were the GPs, councillors, overview and scrutiny committee, local media etc?

"This is still a big unanswered question for me. Where I come from there would have been concerns expressed through one or more sources, such that it would be impossible for the issues not to come to light.

"My experience as a local MP and former journalist is that there must have been some people who knew what was going on.

"I would have expected that if the trust had been within my constituency, some families and members of the local community would have come to me, but also that doctors from the hospital would have stopped me in the street."

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