Hospital scandal families meet PM
Relatives of patients who died at a scandal-hit NHS hospital are to meet Prime Minister David Cameron, ahead of the publication of a report into what have been described as "appalling" standards of care.
It is thought the families will use the private meeting at 10 Downing Street to seek assurances that the Government will implement the recommendations of the inquiry into failings at Stafford Hospital by barrister Robert Francis.
Mr Francis is expected to recommend wide-ranging reforms of the NHS in his report, due for publication on Wednesday.
The head of the body representing NHS managers has said the inquiry must result in a more "patient-centred" health service. NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar pledged that health service leaders would respond positively to the report and work to change the culture of the NHS.
The £11 million review of what went wrong at Stafford Hospital between January 2005 and March 2009 will suggest that hospitals which cover up mistakes by doctors and poor treatment of patients should face fines and possible closure, it has been reported.
A separate highly-critical report by the Healthcare Commission in 2009 revealed a catalogue of failings at the trust and said it had put patients at risk.
Between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expected in a three-year period from 2005 to 2008, the Commission said. In February 2010 an independent inquiry into events at the trust found it had "routinely neglected patients".
Predicting that the release of the report would be "one of the darkest days" in the history of the NHS, Mr Farrar acknowledged that changes needed to be made to make patient feedback easier and give the public a clearer picture of how local services were performing.
Speaking ahead of its publication, Ken Lownds, a member of the Stafford-based campaign group Cure The NHS which successfully lobbied the coalition Government for a full public inquiry, said: "We know Robert Francis will have done an excellent job of analysing the mountains of evidence that he has amassed, but we believe the truth about the sham and charade that was the last Labour government's attempt to regulate the NHS will at last be fully exposed."
Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said the health service would be responding to the report at the same time as it was undergoing seismic changes. Meanwhile, the leader of Staffordshire County Council has called for the voice of the public to be at the heart of delivering an invigorated NHS. Philip Atkins said residents must be listened to if the NHS is to truly learn from the events which unfolded at Stafford.