Firstly this site is dedicated to Bella Bailey 16/02/1921 – 08/11/2007
… and also to the many others who have lost their lives needlessly on wards in Staffordshire General Hospital. Cure the NHS was formed in the winter of 2007 following the death of Bella Bailey who died on the 08/11/2007, following an 8 week stay at Mid Staffs Foundation Trust (Stafford Hospital) for an inflamed hiatus hernia.
After the first few days the family realised that instead of the hospital being a safe place it was an unsafe hospital and subsequent reports have said there was effectively no safety systems in place, in some areas of the hospital. The family were so concerned about Bella’s care and the way other patients were being treated they refused to leave her side.
Julie Bailey and her family stayed with Bella for the next eight weeks and what they saw during those eight weeks left them determined to do something about the appalling care that they witnessed, “What we saw horrified us”, said Julie Bailey in 2007 on her first interview after leaving the hospital.
Following her mother’s death, Julie first contacted the hospital to alert them to her concerns about the vulnerable patients that remained in the hospital and their lack of care. Whilst in the hospital the family had written a letter to the CEO Martin Yeates, telling him the hospital was a dangerous place but had received no response.
She spoke to the Director of Nursing Helen Moss who dismissed her concerns. She spoke to the former Labour MP David Kidney who also dismissed her concerns. Telling her he spoke to a wide circle of people and many constituents, but had never heard of these types of concerns about the hospital before.
Not giving up she made contact with the Overview and Scrutiny Committee made up of Stafford borough councillors, she received a solicitor’s letter back to her, saying she should not contact them again. Telling her “Their role wasn’t to listen to complaints about the hospital”.
Realising she was going to achieve nothing alone and knowing others must have seen the sufferings she had during her eight weeks on the ward, she wrote a letter of appeal to the local newspaper.
The letters flooded in within days of her letter being published, the families soon realised they were not alone and now had each other to share their experiences with. What became apparent was there was so many similar experiences, other families loved ones had been neglected or abused at Mid Staffs too.
Julie speaking in 2009, following the Health Care Commission Report into the hospital said, “My mum was one of the lucky ones as she had her family around her when she died, and we too were lucky as we had each other”, speaking about her family support. “We shared the care between us and were able to discuss the horrors we witnessed. Many of the letters we received were from relatives who only had themselves to provide the care, too fearful to leave their loved ones. They had to watch as their relative failed and faded before them. Many had been full time carers now forced to watch as their loved ones body broke down. Dressings left unchanged and sores left to fester, nurses too busy to attend to even the basic of nursing needs. Many wrote how they watched their loved ones shrinking before them from lack of nourishment and care. Unable to provide the care they once did now reliant on the nursing staff for their loved ones needs”.
Julie refused to give up and was shocked to find so many similarities within the letters she received and the way the hospital had responded. For some just writing to the campaign had helped to ease the frustration and pain they felt from the death of their loved one. For many it has confirmed their fears!
They have complained, took it all the way as many have said, but nothing had changed.
They united and became part of Cure the NHS who were determined that others shouldn’t suffer like their loved ones had.
Cure the NHS held their first meeting in December 2007, in Breaks Café in Stafford
Following the meeting the founder of Cure the NHS, Julie Bailey made a statement to the press,
“We have launched this campaign and we have found each other. Through very sad circumstances we now intend to ensure something is done. We are ordinary people who have witnessed the abuse/neglect of vulnerable people. We have put our trust in others who have let us down. We have all seen our loved ones suffer and we all know unless we do something together more will suffer”.
Cure the NHS contacted the Health Care Commission (HCC) with their concerns and were asked to write a report including their experiences.
The HCC already had concerns about the hospital regarding specific mortality alerts and launched an investigation following an unannounced inspection. The HCC report was published in March 2009, nearly a year later and confirmed all of Cure the NHS concerns.The hospital had harmed many patients and those who should have helped patients hadn’t.
Cure the NHS is now made up of around 20 core members who had either lost loved ones at the hospital or had been harmed themselves, began a campaign for a public inquiry.
They wanted to know why with so many regulators within the NHS, the hospital had been allowed to harm so many for so long. Furthermore if this hospital had harmed and failed so many were there other hospitals doing the same.
Cure the NHS had become a magnet for people all over the country who had been failed by their hospital and made a complaint under the NHS complaints process. What was starting to become apparent was that there were problems at other hospitals and the NHS complaints process was failing many. Instead of learning from complaints and listening to complainants many organisations would, deny, defend and delay dealings with complainants.
Cure the NHS still hears from complainants from all over the country and advises them on the NHS complaints process. The NHS complaints process has changed since Cure the NHS was formed and instead of having three stages it now only has two. The hospital itself and the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).
A complainant’s first contact is often with PALS who are part of the NHS. Their advice is often to speak with the ward manager, or matron of the ward you are complaining about. This is fine for something minor but not for a serious failing. Concerned families are often encouraged by the PALS team to discuss problems and not to officially complain, even when there have been serious failings.
Cure the NHS advise you not to take this approach put all your concerns in writing and address them to the CEO of the hospital and copy in the Chair, Director of Nursing, Medical Director, GP, Clinical Commissioning Group and the Care Quality Commission, with your concerns. Contact your MP and the local group of Healthwatch informing them of your concerns.
They have found that most people who make a complaint want to ensure it doesn’t happen to others. The hospital had been telling complainants for years that lessons had been learnt but had never provided evidence that they had. It wasn’t until they came together that they realised they had all complained about similar failings but at different times.
Cure the NHS continued their campaign for a public inquiry and were supported by other patient groups, AVMA, Patient Association who called on the Labour Government to give the relatives a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.
Relatives were offered an independent case not review but maintained that nothing was independent about it. The hospital managed the start of the proceedings and the case notes were so incomplete many contained other people’s notes with many case notes missing.
The Government set up a series of reviews in 2009, David Colin Thombe Report, George Alberti to look into the hospital. The families continued their campaign for the public inquiry as they wanted the wider NHS examined and not the hospital. The families believed the HCC had already examined the hospital it was now the regulators that needed looking into. They wanted to know why the hospital had been allowed to fail so many patients and for so long. Furthermore was it failing other hospitals?
Cure the NHS continued their campaign by engaging a legal team and began a legal challenge against the Government decision not to award the families a statutory inquiry. In response the Government announced a non statutory, Independent inquiry and appointed Robert Francis QC, to Chair it.
Cure the NHS had to withdraw their legal challenge and they gave evidence to the Independent Inquiry. Continuing their campaign for the statutory inquiry that would compel witness to give evidence with that evidence being heard in public. They wanted more than anything to hear from the regulators such as the GMC, NMC and the PHSO among many others from the wider NHS. They felt that examining the hospital again was not needed and they called the inquiry the “secret inquiry” as nobody knew who had given evidence and who had said what. They were disappointed when the Mid Staffs Independent Inquiry was reported on, as it very much targeted the frontline staff, not the leaders within the organisation and the NHS who had failed.
But this only made Cure the NHS more determined to get the public inquiry. For two years Cure the NHS followed health Ministers and MP’s all over the country, standing in wind, snow and rain determined that the NHS needed examining. The only way they felt that could be done was with a full Public Inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.
They finally got their inquiry in 2011, when a Conservative Government was elected and appointed Robert Francis to chair this 2nd inquiry. The report was published in 2013 and Robert Francis concluded that “the NHS failure had extended to every level of the NHS, from the trust board to the regulators, the health authority and the Department of Health”.
His solution to the failings was 290 recommendations, he didn’t want another root and branch reorganisation, but concluded it was the culture that needed to change.
Cure the NHS sat through every day of the public inquiry with some giving evidence and as core participants were able to give their own recommendations. These can be seen in their Blueprint for a safer NHS.
Since the inquiry Cure the NHS have continued to campaign for safe care for all and for the recommendations to be implemented. The Bristol Heart Inquiry a similar inquiry but ten years earlier had been awarded under the same circumstances but by a Labour Government. The recommendations had never been implemented and many say if they had, the Mid Staffs disaster would never have happened. Cure the NHS are determined that the sufferings at Mid Staffs hospital must never happen again.
They now work with many organisations within the NHS, to ensure that lessons are really learnt and the culture does change. They share their experience and understanding of what has gone wrong in the NHS. Although they work with the NHS their independence is critical to them and they always stay outside of the system.
Their founder Julie Bailey was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list 2014 for her services to older people and recently voted 2nd place in the Woman’s Hour Power List 2014, as one of the top game changers operating in the UK today. Julie speaks to a wide range of audiences and has been working with leaders from England, Scotland and Wales. Her book “From Ward to Whitehall- the disaster at Mid Staffs” captures the struggle she had to be heard to help to expose systemic failings within the NHS.
Now Cure the NHS offers support and advice to people throughout the country who have been harmed within the NHS and Cure the NHS has recently been awarded charitable status to continue their work.