A public inquiry will begin today into failings at an NHS hospital criticised for routinely neglecting patients and providing appalling standards of care.
More from: Stafford Hospital public inquiry to begin
The inquiry, announced by health secretary Andrew Lansley in June, aims to build on the work of an earlier independent investigation into the care provided by Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2009.
The latest inquiry, being held at the offices of Stafford borough council, will begin with an opening statement by its chairman, Robert Francis QC.
Mr Francis, who begins hearing expert evidence next week, also chaired the previous independent inquiry into failings at Stafford Hospital.
That inquiry, which published its findings last February, identified systemic failings at the hospital, where managers were preoccupied with cost-cutting and government targets.
Launched after a Healthcare Commission report published last year, the previous inquiry revealed a catalogue of failings at the trust, which also runs Cannock Chase Hospital.
Appalling 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 previous Labour government rejected calls for a full public inquiry into events at the hospital, instead ordering the independent inquiry.
Mr Lansley said in June that the new inquiry would be held in public in order to combat “a culture of secrecy” and restore public confidence.
When he announced the latest inquiry, Mr Lansley told Parliament: “We know only too well what happened at Mid Staffordshire, in all its harrowing detail, and the failings of the trust itself.
“But, we are still little closer to understanding how it was allowed to happen by the wider system.
“When this inquiry has completed its work and I return to this House to present its report, I am confident that we will, for the first time in this tragic saga, be able to discuss conclusions, rather than questions.”
In a statement issued last month, Mr Francis said he was committed to carrying out an independent, evidence-based and transparent process, to identify the broader lessons to be drawn for the wider health system.
Mr Francis said: “I believe this is an important opportunity to contribute to the improvement of standards in the NHS and the protection of the public, building on the lessons from Mid Staffordshire.
“My aim is that, through an open, candid and reflective consideration of the events at Mid Staffordshire, the inquiry will be able to make recommendations which will assist to shape the regulatory, supervisory and commissioning structures of the NHS of the future.”