Video: C4 to lionise NHS ‘heroine’. But here’s what Stafford says about it – and what she admitted in 2013

To the horror of health campaigners in Stafford – and even her former allies – Channel 4 has announced plans to produce a drama about ‘Cure the NHS’ founder Julie Bailey, the person many Stafford NHS supporters say played a huge role in the loss of many of their health services

Julie Bailey (image: BBC/PA)

The issue in the history of the SKWAWKBOX that first brought the blog to public attention was the Mid Staffordshire Hospital scandal. But the scandal wasn’t what the media were telling the public.

Claims – still treated as fact by many media outlets and politicians – of ‘hundreds of needless deaths’ were pushed relentlessly at a time when the Tories were eager for anything they could use to attack the Labour Party’s strength as creators and protectors of the NHS.

The Francis Report on the Stafford Hospital clinical review

Those claims, however, turned out to be untrue – an artefact arising from poor handling of statistics – and eventually and bad recording of deaths because of cuts – the hospital had sacked its trained ‘coders’ to cut costs – treated as fact for political purposes.

When the entire media estate was telling the nation that between four and twelve hundred patients died avoidably as a result of poor care at Mid Staffs, the SKWAWKBOX analysed the statistics, interviewed the coders who recorded deaths at the hospital and talked to clinical staff about the realities of daily care – and exposed the myth.

In the end, the government used the lurid, false claims to attack the hospital and the people of Stafford lost most of its services – and now have to travel at least forty minutes to Stoke, which has also buckled under the strain.

The Guardian eventually corrected its fake news and even visited Stafford

Now, to the dismay of Stafford health campaigners and even her former allies, Channel 4 has announced plans to produce a drama about Julie Bailey, the founder of Cure the NHS, a then-local who became the Establishment and media face of the claims of huge death tolls and terrible care – eventually receiving a CBE for her ‘services’.

Many local residents consider Julie Bailey’s activities to be a major factor in the loss of their hospital services and regard her with deep suspicion – and there are certainly issues with her claims that none of the ‘mainstream’ media never bothered to probe or explore.

you’d just presume they’d fallen on the floor – and you’d just have to leave them crying out

In 2013, for example, she was interviewed by the BBC for the Radio 4 programme The Long View – and it was a deeply problematic interview in which she admitted sitting by watching patients struggle and suffer without taking any action, yet was never challenged or questioned about her claims:

Ms Bailey admitted watching patients ‘crying out for their food‘ that they couldn’t reach, while desperately trying to ‘scrum down the bottom of their bed‘ to reach it – and ‘eating it with their fingerson the occasions ‘when they did get to it‘.

She admitted hearing patients cry until falling silent after tumbling out of their beds:

their doors would be shut so you’d just presume they’d fallen on the floor – and you’d just have to leave them crying out ‘help, help’ and they’d go quiet.

Bailey claimed that her mother was clinging to her so she couldn’t help, yet by her own account as a well person watching sick people struggle she did not intervene even by shouting for a nurse or pressing a call-buzzer.

And for long enough for people who were crying out after falling out of bed to fall silent.

Stafford hospital campaigners are appalled that a video is being made about Ms Bailey. One post on the Support Stafford Hospital website sums up the feelings of locals:

We all remember only to well the “scandal”, what it did to families, to the staff, to the residents of Stafford and Surrounds. No one can deny there was no problems, underfunding and understaffing being the reason and today that situation continues yet our staff work hardest to maintain the highest standards and are a credit to UHNM Trust and our town.

We know the data was incorrect and incomplete, data was not requested from the hospital by Robert Francis nor was it offered. We know people suffered distress from thinking they had left their loved ones in a terrible place yet they were mystified that they had not seen severe problems for themselves. We know of patients from that time who were so shocked to read such vile accounts because they had not themselves suffered poor care or witnessed such. During those years the same thing was happening in most hospitals all due to the same reasons but it was Midstaffs that was made the target and we all know why that was!

Stories were exaggerated and untruths added to make them more appealing to the media. Money was made, with no shame attached, from a story of immense suffering on all sides. There were six proven deaths, no profit should ever be gained from those patients or their respective families by any individual or media company. Any individual willing to re-open wounds has little or no respect for the families of the deceased or indeed the staff and the residents of Stafford and Surrounds.

This was not a story of one individual, it involved thousands of people most of whom were not allowed to speak to the media. It involves thousands who struggle daily to get from one end of the county to the next because our services were downgraded. Midstaffs will never ever be the story of one person, not unless that person wishes to take full responsibility for the consequences that come of the removal of all vital services especially those of babies and children.

(Emphases added by the SKWAWKBOX)

Many of Julie Bailey’s former ‘Cure’ allies are also horrified at the planned programme:

Channel 4 has been contacted for comment.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

Channel 4 is faced with three options. It can pull its plans for the programme as many Stafford people clearly wish.

It can produce a programme, but do its research properly and present an accurate picture of what happened that takes into account all aspects and include the suspicions and experiences of others – and Ms Bailey’s own comments about her actions and inaction in the hospital.

Or it can plough ahead with a lionising programme ‘through the eyes’ of a woman who admitted on national radio to doing nothing as people struggled, suffered – and fell silent.

Will it ignore evidence and propagate the ‘myth of Mid Staffs’? Or will it dispel myths and let people see what really went on and how the government abused a situation to strip hospital services and as part of a wider attack the NHS?

Ms Bailey was contacted for comment earlier this week. She did not respond.

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  1. If you want to understand what neoliberalism looks like, look no further than the NHS.

    The NHS is a publicly funded body yet the value of these funds is being misdirected into the private pockets of private company owners and shareholders.

    The NHS managers are the enablers who facilitate the outsourcing and privatisation.

    The NHS is a sick animal covered in tapeworms who are busy feeding off of it. Only a genuine socialist government can pull off the tapeworms (Richard Branson et al) and inoculate the NHS against further infection.

    The Tories don’t want to destroy the NHS completely – it’s too much of a cashcow for their rich friends.

    1. It is truly sickening, whilst I agree our hospitals are understaffed and underfunded leading to low morale, I know that most staff try their best. The establishment is setting the NHS up to fail purposely and money is now being made from illness due to the private sector. I totally agree the NHS managers, which we never had when I started nursing in 1975, are part of the problem, they ignore the concerns of front line staff until eventually front line staff give up and end up just waiting for retirement or they move out of the profession altogether. I personally had cause to complain about a Trust re my husband’s care, which after a year of complaining, led to Local investigation and then a PHSO investigation. It ended up being a cover up operation, something before 2013 I would never have believed. When I complained my husband wasn’t brain damaged, whilst the investigation was going on huge mistakes happened, and I put that down to the fact the care was no longer ‘joined up’, and he suffered hypoxic brain damage. Our case is one of many cases that brought me to a pressure group I belong to, PHSO the Facts, and thirty of our cases went to the MET police, and the establishment shut it down. Yes the NHS let us down, but I believe underfunding and overworked staff had a lot to do with the many irregularities that happened. I don’t believe the front line staff would have covered up to this degree, the Managers/CEO’s did that, then the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman made sure our case was closed with no damage to the establishment and all. Those in our pressure group can prove they got the same treatment. The establishment is sick, and they don’t care who suffers. I still love the NHS and attended one of the marches to save it. I do, however, hate the regulatory body that paid me a visit, the CQC, and the PHSO. The Department of Health and Jeremy Hunt, who at the time was Health Secretary. They all ignored our story, and PACAC, whose job it is to scrutinise the Ombudsman is not better. When people like Julie Bailey are rewarded with honours it makes me incandescent with rage.

  2. I well remember your article countering the lies and misinformation surrounding Mid staffs Steve, it prompted me to get a copy of the Francis report and as you spelled out at the time there was no record of any deaths in the actual report, and Francis admitted publicly that statistics could in no way identify the reasons of deaths, doctors medical records were the only way to ascertain how people died.

    I also remember the very large march through the town in protest to her claims, and she complained that people had been nasty to her and driven her out of town having to sell up her business. Where I think it was pointed out that she had already made plans to live abroad, if I remember rightly.

    The women is an absolute disgrace and the first thing the Labour government should do is publicly remove that honour from her.

  3. Yes Tragically Tory diversionary propaganda tactics promoting a political puppet just like in Venezeula?
    Right wing tactics need to be understood.
    Watched a grotesque BBC report on a Hospital in Venezeula which the uncrital BBC political morons (I may be being unkind as the journos, they may be being censored by the Tory appointees?)
    But they were let in, imagine a film crew unannounced trying to enter a UK hospital?
    But the BBC political thicko failed to mention 20 years of US sanctions which affected drugs, food and raw materials.
    The BBC is disgracefully regurgitating RIght Wing US Goebells Propaganda!
    We need to democratise the NHS in the UK and the BBC needs to hold Truth to Power!

  4. Oh God, not that woman again. I feel sick just looking at her photo.
    The past decade has seen such advances of privatisation that they won’t kick the NHS to get at Labour any more, they’re feeding on its carcass. This is just wringing the last bit of propaganda out of a very political campaign…..and just what I expect from Channel 4, the channel that employs quirky old Jon Snow in his multi-coloured socks and ties to read neoliberal propaganda.

  5. Just found this from an article in the Guardian:
    “After that Bailey, in occasional rotation with her daughter and niece, stayed on the ward full time. “We never upset them. But when the nurses weren’t around we would help with the other patients. I made sure I never got in the way, but I might leave a note saying ‘so and so has been sick all night and the bed needs changing’. One night I went down to the toilet about two in the morning and they had taken away the chair I slept in. After that they would be slower and slower bringing Mum’s drugs around, she would be waiting six hours for a heart pill. [But] there were some wonderful staff. The younger staff tended to run themselves ragged. When I left that ward the morning my mum died, those patients were crying out my name all the way down the corridor. They knew it was over for them once I had gone.”

    It will no doubt be central to the mocumentary. Bailey was on the offensive from the moment her mother was admitted to the hospital, the circle of people under her scrutiny just got bigger and bigger.

  6. If only ‘lionised’ meant being thrown to the lions, then I’d gladly approve.

    I just can’t understand why the minute bailey said she’d seen people drinking water from vases she wasn’t dismissed as the deranged fantasist she is.

    I mean just who is actually THAT bleeding thick and/or gullible enough to believe a single word that load of total bollards?

    …Or this?

    “When I left that ward the morning my mum died, those patients were crying out my name all the way down the corridor. They knew it was over for them once I had gone.”




    Yes folks, without bailey even making it known she was leaving the hospital the patients somehow were all aware of it, so they got out of their deathbeds and prostrated themselves at her feet, wailing and lamenting the impending loss of their messiah, and their own imminent doom…

    Even Tom Pepper, Baron Munchhausen and all the other fictional purveyors of ‘tall tales’ have nothing on bailey.

  7. Thanks for putting the hidden story- and the seemingly imbalanced focus on Mid Stafford but it needs more names and quotes to counter the historic narrative. Who else doubted Baileys’ stories at the time or just after? Has this been exposed before? I am suspicious. It would have required more than Bailey to be used as a weapon to reduce service. And why one area? Needs more exposure and facts and evidence….because this is shocking if true. I do know that elderly care in many hospitals is often inadequate or downright dangerous as a result of underfunding in social care, so elderly people are shunted into hospitals , many needing much more all round care and support, entertainment,e.g. water feeding by cup so they don’t get dehydrated. It is no good leaving a glass of water or cup of tea next to the bed of someone who is so weak they can’t lift it, and so shaky they spill it.. Dehydration is a major cause of why UTI’s and other infections persist. That care cannot be be given by overstretched nurses at peak times of crisis. Bedblocking which is a major crisis, is a direct result of Tory austerity and underfunding of Local Authority Social Care.

    1. I think the “drinking water from flower vases” trope must have an origin in reality, but it has been used mercilessly ever since. I’ve never seen flower vases in hospital wards myself but I’m aware that people with Alzheimer’s (my mother) would do something like that. She would forget to drink and could be very violent and extremely stubborn. I never heard of her actually doing it but it wouldn’t have surprised me at all, you’ve got to see these things in context of the illness.
      As you say, bed blocking was the problem and it led to expensively trained nurses having to do what Bailey and the Daily Mail thought they should have been doing all along but “were too posh to wash”.

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