The findings of an independent inquiry into a scandal-hit NHS hospital will be made public today.
The probe was launched into events at Stafford Hospital after a damning report last March from the Healthcare Commission revealed a catalogue of failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which also runs Cannock Chase Hospital.
Appalling standards of care put many patients at risk, and between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expected in a three-year period from 2005 to 2008, the commission found.
The report made headlines, with families describing shocking conditions in which some patients drank water from vases because they were so thirsty and others were left screaming in pain.
The commission reported that there were deficiencies at “virtually every stage”, including inadequately trained staff who were too few in number, junior doctors left alone in charge at night and dirty wards and bathrooms.
The investigation found heart monitors were turned off on wards because nurses did not know how to use them and some patients were left dehydrated because nurses did not know how to work intravenous fluid systems properly.
The commission concluded that the trust’s board was more focused on finance, targets and achieving foundation trust status, as well as its desire to save £10 million.
In July last year, four months after the publication of the commission’s report, Health Secretary Andy Burnham announced a second inquiry would be launched to ensure “lessons are learned”.
The chairman of the inquiry, Robert Francis QC, a specialist in medical legal issues, will deliver the findings of the two-month probe to gathered relatives and media in Staffordshire this morning.
The final report was handed to Mr Burnham earlier this month. He will make a statement on the findings in the House of Commons this afternoon.
Bereaved families blasted the decision to hold the two-month inquiry behind closed doors, branding it a “whitewash”.
Campaign group Cure The NHS, formed by relatives of people who died under the care of mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, believes the probe merely covered the same ground as the Healthcare Commission report and will offer no fresh conclusions.
Members of Cure The NHS repeatedly protested about the secrecy and earlier this month called for the resignation of Health Secretary Andy Burnham.
During a demonstration outside the Department of Health in central London on February 2, the group handed in a blank piece of paper to Mr Burnham’s personal assistant.
Founder Julie Bailey said the paper represented the fact that the group was not even allowed to see evidence from the inquiry gathered by its own lawyers.
She said the lawyers were allowed to sit in as hospital staff gave evidence but had to sign a confidentiality agreement, banning them from sharing the evidence with their own clients.
Ms Bailey said: “We’ve known right from the start that this inquiry would be a whitewash to protect the Government and so it has proved.
Renewing calls for a public inquiry, she added: “Cure The NHS urges Mr Burnham to produce the report in full, with all of the evidence, as soon as possible. All bereaved relatives and the public have a right to see it.”