Campaigners who fought to uncover shocking conditions at the former Stafford Hospital have said a new Channel 4 drama based on the scandal has had a “catastrophic” effect on their physical and mental well-being.
Members of Cure the NHS, who fought for a Public Inquiry into the deaths of elderly patients at the hospital between 2005 and 2009, have publicly blasted creators of The Cure, a factual drama due to air tonight.
The drama follows the struggles of Stafford resident Julie Bailey, also a founding member of Cure the NHS, who launched the campaign after witnessing first hand the neglect her mother Bella endured at the hospital.
Ms Bailey said the airing of the programme would be a “hard week” for everyone involved with the campaign, adding: “Mid Staffs must never be forgotten and lessons still need to be learnt.”
Her campaigning had featured in the Express & Star over the years, including a meeting in Stafford with the then-Prime Minister David Cameron.
When her mother, Isabella, known as Bella, died in November 2007 after an eight-week stay at Stafford Hospital she began her campaign for changes after being horrified by the care of elderly patients.
The Channel 4 drama tells the story of Julie, played by Sherlock actress Sian Brooke, who began making regular trips to Stafford Hospital where her mother Bella had been admitted with a treatable hernia condition.
At the hospital the family witnessed appalling conditions. Eight weeks after Bella was first admitted she died due to problems she encountered in the hospital.
Actress Sue Johnston, famed for the Royal Family and Brookside, plays Julie's mother in the drama.
Ms Bailey formed the Cure the NHS group and at the same time she also set up her own business, The Breaks Cafe, in Newport Road.
Mr Cameron met her at the cafe to discuss issues at Stafford in April 2009.
‘Dark days are ahead due to new drama’
Other campaigners have condemned the production – and said they had no say in any of the show’s content.
Deb Hazeldine, a former member of Cure The NHS, said other campaign members had no input in the programme at all, yet were now being accused of “dramatising” their own personal experiences.
She said: "We are increasingly struggling to live with the ongoing unpleasantness that continues to be directed our way, since the announcement of this programme.
"Elderly, vulnerable, and unwell founder members of ‘Cure the NHS’ are simply trying to survive each day.
"This has had a catastrophic effect on their mental health and physical well-being.
"On top of founder members endeavouring to cope with their on-going health challenges, this is heartbreaking.
"We would not wish this on another living soul.”
In a joint statement ahead of tonight's screening, members Pete and Alison Basford, Sonia Burnhill, Castell Davis, Christine Daziel, Roger and Ann Dobbing, Deb Hazeldine, Nicola Monte, Mary Millington said: “It is so distressing being now accused of dramatising our own personal experiences in an upcoming TV programme.
"We find it exceptionally offensive, anyone would believe that we are using our loved ones’ deaths and cashing in on their suffering by selling their story.
"Once again we are being accused of trying to destroy the NHS and trying to close the local hospital.
"The general public naturally assume that we, the founder members of Cure the NHS (who are instantly recognisable due to intense campaigning locally and around the country for many years), are supportive and involved in the upcoming project, publicly promoted as “The Cure” and “The Whistleblower” especially as our campaigning photos have been used in the national promotion of this project without our knowledge or permission.
"We do not support this project in any shape or form.
"We have had no input into the content of the programme.
“We feel the need to publicly state again that we, the undersigned, funded our own campaigning to the tune of many thousands of pounds over many many years, we have never “made money” from campaigning, interviews, newspaper articles, etc.
"The accusation is completely false and without substance. Can you imagine how painful it is to us?”
A full public enquiry was held into the scandal which reported around 290 recommendations for improvements in 2013.
It was announced in 2014 that Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust would be dissolved.
Stafford Hospital was renamed County Hospital and was taken over by the newly constituted University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust.
Cannock Chase Hospital, which had also been part of the trust, was taken over by Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust, which manages Wolverhampton's New Cross Hospital.
Lessons are learned
Chief executive of University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust Tracy Bullock said: “The whole NHS was shocked and saddened by the severe failures in care at Mid Staffordshire Hospitals, between 2005 and 2009, including the tragic death of Isabella Bailey.
“Whilst it is important that those lessons are learned and what happened is never forgotten it is equally important to recognise that Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust no longer exists. The County Hospital is a much valued and highly regarded local hospital.
“As with all Trusts, we are quite rightly subject to a wide range of external scrutiny and we will never be complacent about the care that we provide.
"However, I am delighted to say that during a recent PLACE inspection, assessors commented on the overall cleanliness of County Hospital, the calm environment and the high quality of patient food.
"Medical, nursing and support staff were all praised for their compassion and dedication and patient care was stated as second to none. Our Friend and Family test also shows that 98 per cent of inpatients would recommend or highly recommend the care they receive at UHNM.
“During the last five years there has been significant investment in improving facilities and services including the refurbishment of all wards, a new chemotherapy centre and installation of new laminar flow theatres at County Hospital and I am very proud of our loyal and dedicated staff who work hard to maintain the highest standards.
“I hope the programme makers do not confuse the past with the present as that would do both our staff and patients a real dis-service.”
The Cure airs tonight at 9pm on Channel 4.