The Broken Health service story spreads.
When the story was confined to Stafford, it alienated the hospital staff who best understood what had really happened
When the HCC report was published in the middle of international media frenzy this had the same effect nationally as it had done in Stafford. People read the stories and felt that they had experienced something similar. The level of complaints soared. The Patients association which had been running with a staff of two and a half volunteers, needed to increase its numbers to six. Well respected organisations like Age Concern and the Alzheimers society recognised that issues for which they had been trying to attract attention for decades were now in the public eye, and important reports were commissioned to look at the real shortcomings in the way we care for the frail elderly. These are continuing. This latest one looks at the issue of Dignity in care.
Some of this recognised the scale of the challenge presented by our growing elderly population, Some of it was presented as criticism of a failing nursing profession. As the simplistic criticism of the health service grew, with wdespread media criticism of uncaring nurses who were too posh to wash, this gradually drew the Conservative front bench into a hostile relationship with the NHS.
One of the first public events that David Cameron was involved in following the tragic death of his son was a visit to Julie Baileys café to meet with the grieving relatives. A flavour of that visit can be found here
I personally found that visit a shock. He was coming to a town that was in a highly volatile state. Up until that time I had no difficulty in accepting the widely help public perception of a courteous and caring young man. I had genuinely expected a statesmanlike attempt to calm public emotion, We did not get that. He stoked the fire, and the papers the next day included his angry response to the suggestion that he was using Stafford Hospital as a political football.
David Cameron was riding high in the polls then. His intervention, and the fact that we were into a pre- election period meant that tackling the essential misconception about Stafford became even harder than it had been. Any attempt to put the problems of Stafford into context was seem as an attack on the integrity of the pressure group, and as being “in denial”.
The stories of Stafford, as told in the press had now become "fact" that no-one was permitted to deny.