NHS must return to Christian basis - bishops

Police to investigate the hundreds of deaths put down to the Mid-Staffordshire NHS scandalPA

Serious failures in standards of care at Stafford General Hospital are evidence that the "marketisation of the health service has gone too far", two bishops have warned.

The Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Reverend Jonathan Gledhill, and the Bishop of Stafford, the Right Reverend Geoff Annas, made the comments in the Church Times in response to an inquiry into the death of 66-year-old Gillian Astbury at the hospital in 2007.

The inquiry found that hundreds of patients had died as a result of poor levels of care. Police are now considerating whether to bring criminal charges against staff at the NHS hospital.

Bishop Gledhill said the investigation into the hospital had been a "long and terrible time for the people of Stafford", particularly the relatives of those who had died "unnecessarily and suffered".

He said people should "not be afraid to go to their local hospital", but also expressed sympathy for NHS workers who have "borne the weight of cuts and reductions".

"We have now seen what many of us suspected - that the marketisation of the health service has gone too far," he said.

He called for a return to the Christian values that inspired the creation of the NHS.

"This Christian basis has been weakened in recent years and covering the bottom line has become all important."

Bishop Annas expressed his sympathy for those affected by the "horrific" failings.

"Their legacy and memorial must be an NHS that puts patients' wellbeing before all other considerations," he said.

"There has been enormous soul-searching among staff at Stafford Hospital. I hope the future sees a return to patient-centred management that puts caring for people and enabling staff to raise concerns above administration."