Campaigner fighting to raise concerns about standards at Stafford Hospital were vilified and ignored for more than a year before the scale of the disaster came to light a hearing into the scandal heard.

The public inquiry, chaired by Robert Francis QC heard yesterday

how bosses at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and health watchdogs branded Julie Bailey’s campaign group Cure the NHS “a problem” despite up to 400 patients dying as a result of poor standards between 2005 and 2009.

The hearing heard how Ms Bailey wrote to then chief executive Martin Yeates while her mother Bella was in the hospital raising concerns about staffing numbers and the treatment of patients who were left lying in soiled sheets and without medication or food.

But letters to the trust and those regulating standards were ignored.

Delivering an opening statement on behalf of Cure the NHS, who are core participants at the Stafford hearing, Jeremy Hyam said: “In many other cases her attempts to bring matters to the attention of those in positions of responsibility were met with rebuff, prevarication or delay.

“It is staggering to learn that even while the Health Care Commission sought to investigate the hospital others sought to denigrate her efforts and to depreciate and downplay the criticisms brought forward by Cure.”

It was only after the publication of the Health Care Commission’s damning report in March 2009 that Cure the NHS’s claims were “vindicated” Mr Hyam said.

Nick Mullany, counsel in the hearing for Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, again issued an apology and told Mr Francis the Trust would offer all assistance to the Public Inquiry.

“Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust welcomes this inquiry.

“We repeat our sincere apologies for the harm caused to patients, families and their loved ones.”