Campaigners battling to keep services at Stafford Hospital say they fear an inspection next week is designed to speed up the takeover of the site by a neighbouring health trust.
Stafford will be run by the University Hospital of North Staffordshire from November.
And it has been revealed the Care Quality Commission will start an inspection there on Monday after an appeal for help from bosses.
The Trust Special Administrators, who are spearheading the overhaul of services, were called in to look at A&E medical care, maternity, surgery and radiology.
But a statement by the Support Stafford Hospital campaign group said: "Lives are being placed at risk not by staffing levels but by hasty attempts to move services ahead of schedule to another provider with insufficient capacity.
"Let us be the first of many district general hospitals that become the symbol of meeting local acute and community health needs, as well as becoming an effective networking cog within the wider health economy."
Hospital chiefs say the move is due to the ‘fragility’ of the trust that runs the hospital and problems with staff recruitment and retention.
At 6.30pm on Monday a ‘listening event’ will be held at The Kingston Centre in Stafford, where members of the public can talk to inspectors about their recent experiences of care and what improvements need to be made.
The CQC insists the event is not a meeting about the work the TSA have been carrying out as part of the overhaul of the site that could see maternity services downgraded.
Instead they say it is an opportunity to tell CQC about current care at the trust.
Campaigners add: "Stafford Hospital has no fear of the CQC, having successfully been inspected several times under the normal CQC regulatory procedures.
"However, it is strange that anyone should ask CQC for “assistance” since this is not their usual job. One would think that CQC have enough to be going on with across the NHS."
A statement from the administrators Alan Bloom, Hugo Mascie-Taylor and Alan Hudson said: “The fragility of the trust’s services, due to staff recruitment and retention, has been a constant and well-documented issue which first emerged prior to the appointment of the TSAs.
“Since the start of the trust special administration process in April 2013, the TSAs have been working with Monitor and local providers to address the issue.
“However it has now become a significant challenge. In such circumstances it is good NHS practice to ensure that all other relevant bodies, such as the CQC, are informed appropriately of any such issues which may affect the provision of safe patient services.”
It goes on to add: “We anticipate that the CQC will now conduct a focused inspection of the trust and report on its findings as soon as is possible. The TSAs, together with its partners, will consider carefully the CQC’s report, findings and advice and will act accordingly in the interests of patient safety.”Subscribe to our Newsletter