An NHS trust has been forced to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation to bereaved relatives and victims of its "appalling" patient care.
Stafford Hospital "routinely neglected" patients and displayed "systemic failings" in its approach to care, according to an independent inquiry published in February.
Poor 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. The inquiry found the trust had meanwhile become preoccupied with cost-cutting and targets.
Dozens of families will receive pay-outs, with sums ranging from £1,000 to about £27,500, with an average payment of just above £11,000.
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust said it did not yet know what the total cost would be as the claims were still being settled and others may yet be made. The figure is expected to be less than £1 million, said a spokeswoman. But it is believed to be Britain's largest ever group claim against a hospital.
The trust apologised again for its failings. Chief executive Antony Sumara said: "As always, I offer our sincerest apologies to the families concerned, for the distress caused by the poor care their relatives received at our trust in the past. We have made a lot of progress over the last year in improving the care for our patients and will continue to focus our efforts on building on these improvements and making sure that they are sustained."
But the trust, which also runs Cannock Chase Hospital, is still falling short on 11 key standards, according to the health watchdog. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found in a recent inspection it complied with just five out of the 16 objectives set out by law to maintain quality and safety in hospitals. While it had improved in some areas, the inspection report said on Friday that problems with the way hospitals handled medicine had increased in the last 12 months. The report warned services must continue to improve to meet the minimum standards of care.
Leigh Day & Co solicitors has been representing families claiming compensation from the trust over the past few months. It said in August it had agreed a settlement on behalf of some 60 families whose relatives had experienced ill-treatment at Stafford Hospital.
The law firm said in a statement at the time: "The Healthcare Commission published a horrifying report into the care and treatment being provided at Stafford Hospital. It... detailed many stories of patient abuse and neglect. Significant amounts of compensation were achieved for families and each of our clients will also receive an apology from the new chief executive of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust."
The trust was condemned by the Prime Minister in June for its "appalling" standards of care during the three-year period in question. A full public inquiry into the failings at the trust will be carried out in November.