Hundreds — possibly thousands — of patients have died from lack of care in British hospitals in what an official government investigation termed “the biggest scandal in NHS [National Health Service] history.”

The 31-month, $20-million investigation into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, led by barrister Robert Francis, found that “between 2005 and 2009, up to 1,200 patients died unnecessarily and many more were ‘failed by a system which ignored the warning signs and put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety,’” according to the Telegraph. Francis issued a report on the investigation February 6.

“Within hours of the publication of” that report, the Telegraph reported, the government opened an investigation into five more NHS trusts — regional healthcare authorities — that have experienced high mortality rates in recent years. “Between July 2010 and June 2012, a total of 3,063 deaths were recorded at the five trusts, which comprise eight district general hospitals, over and above what would be expected,” the paper wrote. This investigation will be headed by Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS Commissioning Board.

“Patients and their families have been warning for years that care was inadequate” in these five trusts, said the Telegraph. “Professor Sir Brian Jarman, an international authority on hospital performance, said he warned the Government in early 2010 about high death rates at four of the hospitals now under investigation.”

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