A former social worker and lifelong liberal, Bailey lived in Stafford, a town 140 miles northwest of London, where she took care of her mother, Bella. In the fall of 2007, her mother was hospitalized at Stafford Hospital after a rough, sleepless night interrupted by coughing and retching.
Once in the hospital, Bailey was bullied by staff members and dismissed when she suggested her mother needed medication for a chest infection. One night, her mother was left lying in her own vomit, despite screaming for help. One doctor told Bailey that her mother would die a “painful death,” snapping his fingers for emphasis.
Her confidence shaken, Bailey took to sleeping on a hard plastic chair in the hospital to attend to her mother’s care. But spending more time in the hospital meant being exposed to the depth of its horrors. “What I saw was the abuse of vulnerable adults,” she said.
Bailey said she witnessed nurses leaving food out of reach of immobile patients who couldn’t feed themselves. Sometimes, nurses would come by to say they forgot the keys to the drug cabinet, meaning they couldn’t distribute medication to those in need of it. Patients who required assistance going to the bathroom were often forced to relieve themselves in their own beds. Desperate patients deprived of fluids resorted to drinking water out of the dirty flower vases in the hallway. “One of the worst things was walking down the corridor,” she recalled, “and it would just be, ‘Nurse! Nurse! Help! Help!’ ” More mobile patients would often wander around the hallways, confused, in a futile search for care.