An NHS hospital “routinely neglected” patients and displayed “systemic failings” in its approach to care, an independent report said.
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust lost sight of its responsibility to provide safe care after managers became preoccupied with cost-cutting and Government targets, the damning study said.
The probe was launched into events at Stafford Hospital after a report last March from the Healthcare Commission revealed a catalogue of failings at the trust, which also runs Cannock Chase Hospital.
Appalling standards put 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.
Inquiry chairman Robert Francis QC made 18 recommendations for both the trust and the Government after hearing evidence from more than 900 patients and their family members, and more than 80 staff.
But Julie Bailey, who founded the campaign group Cure The NHS after the death of her mother Bella at the hospital, described the report as “absolutely outrageous” and called for a public inquiry.
The Tories and Liberal Democrats also demanded a full public inquiry but Health Secretary Andy Burnham said a second inquiry he was setting up would meet those demands.
That investigation will look at how trusts are regulated and monitored and the systems for identifying failing hospitals.
The General Medical Council (GMC) announced it was investigating several doctors from Mid Staffs to see if they should face disciplinary action but would not disclose how many.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is investigating at least one nurse and is also considering whether other nurses should be checked.
While highlighting serious management failings, today’s report contained dozens of examples of nurses neglecting patients.
Some were left unwashed - at times for up to a month - and food and drinks were left out of reach, the inquiry found.
Patients were left in dirty bedding and were caused “considerable suffering, distress and embarrassment”.
The report added: “Requests for assistance to use a bedpan or to get to and from the toilet were not responded to.
“Patients were often left on commodes or in the toilet for far too long.
“They were also often left in sheets soiled with urine and faeces for considerable periods of time, which was especially distressing for those whose incontinence was caused by Clostridium difficile.
“Considerable suffering, distress and embarrassment were caused to patients as a result.
“Some families felt obliged or were left to take soiled sheets home to wash or to change beds when this should have been undertaken by the hospital and its staff.”
The inquiry found other failings in hygiene, including razors being used on more than one patient, shared washing bowls and patients not having their teeth cleaned.
Some people suffered falls resulting in serious injury, while nursing records and medical histories were incomplete.
Senior managers were described as being too focused on meeting targets, in particular the four-hour waiting time target for A&E.
“A&E was chronically understaffed in terms of consultants and nurses during the period under review,” the report said.
“There were frequent changes in management, which led to a sense of lack of leadership and support of staff.”
Mr Francis said that many of the accounts, taken individually, indicated a standard of care which was totally unacceptable.
“Together, they demonstrate a systematic failure of the provision of good care,” he said.
The inquiry concluded that the trust’s board - which exacerbated its problems by cutting staff to save £10 million in 2006/7 - was “disconnected” from what was actually happening in the hospital.
Mr Francis said he believed some staff and managers at the hospital had attempted to minimise the significance of the Healthcare Commission report, rather than reflecting on their roles in the trust’s deep-rooted failings.
“I heard so many stories of shocking care,” he added.
“These patients were not simply numbers, they were husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, grandparents.
“They were people who entered Stafford Hospital and rightly expected to be well cared for and treated.
“Instead many suffered horrific experiences that will haunt them and their loved ones for the rest of their lives.”
Mr Francis said “the scale of failure” was greater than has been revealed to date.
While he concluded that Stafford Hospital should not be closed, he recommended that Mr Burnham review whether to remove Mid-Staffordshire’s status as a foundation trust - a supposed marker of excellence in the NHS.
In response, Mr Burnham said he had asked the regulator Monitor to review the trust’s status.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has already said it plans to apply conditions to the trust’s registrations.
Mr Burnham told MPs he accepted all the report’s recommendations.
“This was ultimately a local failure, but it is vital that we learn the lessons nationally to ensure that it won’t happen again - we expect everyone in the NHS to read the report and act on it,” he said.
Patients Association president Claire Rayner said the voice of patients were “still being ignored up and down the country”.
“Our helpline still receives accounts like the ones in this report on a daily basis,” she said.
“The scale of problems at Stafford might have been unique but failures in essential nursing care are not.”
Peter Carter, general secretary, of the Royal College of Nursing, said individual examples of poor care are “indefensible”.
“However, it cannot be right for one nurse to run a whole nightshift on her own with a bank healthcare assistant.
“Just as important as numbers is getting the skill mix right - having untrained staff performing advanced duties is an accident waiting to happen.”
*Foundation hospitals should be more open to the public - read more in this week’s Birmingham Post