Britain's NHS braced for report into appalling hospital care
Britain was braced on Wednesday for the findings of a public inquiry into the appalling care at a state-run hospital, where patients were deprived of water and left lying in soiled sheets for hours.
The inquiry is expected to propose wide-ranging reforms of the National Health Service (NHS) following its investigation into the serious failings at Stafford Hospital in central England.
The inquiry has been led by top lawyer Robert Francis, who in an earlier probe found that patients were "routinely neglected" as managers focused on meeting targets set by the then Labour government and cutting costs by tens of millions of pounds.
That report revealed standards of hygiene so low that families were at times forced to remove used bandages and dressings from public areas themselves, sometimes even cleaning toilets.
There have been reports that the failings led to 1,200 unnecessary deaths, although Francis said this was difficult to confirm.
The probe, published in 2010, found patients, many of them elderly and infirm, were left lying in soiled beds and sitting on commodes for hours, while many were left unwashed for up to a month.
Covering the period between 2005 and 2009, it found food was left out of reach of patients and there was often no help for those who could not feed themselves, leaving them starving.
While the report found staff shortages were largely to blame, it said some carers showed a a "disturbing lack of compassion". The management of the hospital was also blamed for failing to listen to patients' concerns.
Such was the gravity of the problems at Stafford Hospital that Prime Minister David Cameron himself will lead a parliamentary debate following the publication of the public inquiry report on Wednesday.
It is the fifth major investigation into the scandal, and will focus on the role of the commissioning, supervisory and regulatory bodies in the NHS trust which runs the hospital.
© 2013 AFP