Julie Bailey, and the ‘Cure the NHS’ group she has founded, have repeated hundreds of times their account of events and conditions at Stafford hospital at the time of the death of her mother. Stafford, along with Ms Bailey and her mother Bella, have become bywords for ‘all that is wrong with the NHS’, ruthlessly exploited by politicians – primarily Conservatives – to undermine public confidence in, and affection for, the NHS.
Bella Bailey died at Stafford in November 2007. According to Julie, her mother died in agony and terror, ignored by nurses while all around them patients suffered, and even fell out of bed and were left on the floor until they sank into silence. Stories of patients drinking from vases have been repeated as fact until almost no one dares doubt them, and nurses have been abused in the street just because they worked at Stafford hospital.
I received an unsolicited email this evening from a Stafford man whose mother died on ward 10, the same ward that Bella Bailey was admitted to, and only a month or so after Bella’s death. I’m going to repeat it here verbatim – nothing I could do to it could make its impact more powerful or more telling.
Andy Sutherland’s story
My mother, Marion Sutherland became ill and was admitted to Stafford hospital on Dec 27th 2007 and was diagnosed as having suffered a stroke, a couple of days later she suffered a massive stroke and was transferred to a side room on ward 10. The family were told that recovery was impossible and that it was just a question of time. She was in a comatose state by that time.
During that initial period we observed that Mum was always clean, her hair brushed, her bed linen clean.Members of her family made a pact that she would never be alone during this time, so we started a vigil and also informed family members who live in Edinburgh, they arrived from Scotland on New Years Eve. My wife and I spent 19 hours unbroken at my mothers bedside. There were various members of our family, especially those from Scotland who were upset and didn’t want to leave her.
The nurse on duty said we could use the family room, that the staff had been using as their rest room over the Christmas period, so we could take it in turns to actually be BY Mum’s bed. The staff were kindness itself, even given the fact that our family is quite a large one and we were all naturally concerned, but we were still touched that they had given up THEIR small bit of festive cheer for us.
The nurse in charge, a staff nurse I believe, was ready to talk to any one of us, despite the fact that it was obvious that the ward was extremely short of staff.
My wife and I stayed in that side room throughout New Years Day 2008, members of staff came to ask if we were ok as often as was reasonable to expect. By the evening of New years day we were “relieved” by my brother, who settled down to spend the night with Mum. At 6am the next day he rang to say Mum had passed quietly away and could we come back up to the hospital.
Because of our exhausted state it took my wife and I almost 2 hours to get up to the ward from my daughters home, where we were staying. Those wonderful nurses KNEW we were returning after so short a time rest, and didn’t rush us to say goodbye, there were quite a few of us family members at at NO time were any of us made to feel “in the way” In fact, the ward sister on duty that morning, a Sister Dick, even spent a couple of moments letting my wife cry on her shoulder.
My wife wrote a letter of thanks to staff on ward 10 and sent it to the Director of Nursing. Imagine our horror as, whilst we were living in Spain, stories were emerging of “bad treatment” on that ward. Of patient drinking from flower vases, of patients being left in filth etc etc. At NO TIME did we hear anyone crying (or even screaming, as we heard claimed), flowers were NOT allowed on the ward at any time, therefore no vases, and the staff, though rushed off their feet, could not have been kinder. It has caused us great anguish over the last few years to hear all the “horror” stories when WE know the good care our mother was given. The voices of families like us have gone unheard over the years, despite many efforts and complaints to the media and press that there WAS good care at Stafford, and I welcome an opportunity to tell OUR story.
Mr Sutherland asked me to publish his story, and was happy to be named so that he can stand publicly by it.
I have pointed out, in various articles, the serious problems and inconsistencies with the story Ms Bailey has fed to the media – inconsistencies that any journalist worthy of the name should have explored.
Ms Bailey has claimed, in a lengthy radio interview, that she left patients in neighbouring rooms crying out for help until they lapsed into silence, after falling out of bed – yet she criticises nurses for lacking compassion when she sat by instead of going to find help. She has claimed to have looked into her mothers terrified eyes as she begged for painkillers on the last night of her life – yet she did not go to find a nurse and drag her to give the drugs, as I would, and probably you too.
Her account has been swallowed whole by media and politicians – some out of clear ulterior motives, and some out of lazy journalism or editorial pressure – even though it has grown and been embellished to the point of nonsense as time has passed.
And she continues to act as a focal point for those who wish to break the NHS even while claiming to love and protect it – only today she attended a ludicrous service at Westminster Abbey, while still calling for heads to roll.
Mr Sutherland’s experience happened only weeks after Ms Bailey’s, and well before any publicity about the hospital which might have caused some rapid clean-ip – yet he found a ward, and staff, which were not only adequate and safe but exemplary. He also gives eyewitness confirmation that no vases were allowed on the wards at the hospital – confirming what was already clear but ignored by media who continue to repeat the story.
Two accounts. One hellish, one glowing. One by a woman and a group who have garnered attention and influence by repeating their story in ever more shocking detail – and one by a man who has sought neither, but is so outraged that he is prepared to face the onslaught that will undoubtedly follow, just in order to set the record straight.
Which do you believe?