When we come to write the story of Stafford Hospital, writes health campaigner Diana Smith, it may be the story of a town that stopped talking and started shouting.
Some of our citizens were hurt. They needed to be listened to and it is unfortunate that they did not know how to look for people who could have listened to them well.
Then they found the newspapers. It was I think at that point that conversation became impossible. Stories told through the press, especially if only one side is heard, can sound like accusations. If they are at times a little “improved in the telling” then the unfairness can be deeply offensive.
With hurt feelings on all sides the answer would have been for peace makers to play a role, but – and there is a warning here – an election was due. Instead of calmly seeking to understand the problems and to seek a resolution, then I am afraid people who really should have known better stoked the fires which have left our hospital smouldering for four long years.
Well now we have an answer of a kind. After many millions of pounds, and many millions of words the inquiry that people wanted so much has left our hurt citizens still hurting.
As the academics start to look at the detail of the report we can see that the idea that Stafford was a uniquely terrible hospital is now simply untenable.
Few people have yet found their way to section 5 of the Francis report which shows us how extremely shaky the ubiquitous myth of the “excess deaths” actually is.
The influential editor of the Health Service Journal is still being cautious but makes the point “The inaccurate fig of 1000 deaths at Mid Staffs now appears to have become 'fact' - I fear it's an indication of level of debate”.
In the less colourful reality, the Francis report helps us to see that the problems of staffing levels that affected Mid Staffs in 2006/7 have now become an issue throughout the NHS, and that hospitals nationally and internationally are struggling to deal with the demands of the frail elderly.
The report has helped us to see a health service in which people try hard and cope well enough most of the time, but where services and individuals are working on the edge of what is possible.
The story is not over yet. As I write today a nurse is being hauled in front of the GMC to answer the accusation that she faked waiting time statistics, - (something that I suspect many hospitals are probably feeling they must do).
The police at the request of the new PCC are dusting off old case notes to see if anyone can be blamed for anything.
The protestors who have been pursuing David Nicholson around the country are off to London for a ring side seat for his appearance in front of the Select Committee.
Much of this will be for the history books.
But here, now in our town we are left with a toxic legacy.
Hospitals, now that they are viewed as businesses, must live within their budgets.
Mid Staffs, for historical reasons, compounded by the unique difficulties of the last five years, and by a tariff system designed to force A&Es to close, cannot do this.
Monitor were instructed to invent a “failure regime” for hospitals that fail to balance their books. Mid Staffs has become the testing ground for this and the administrators are coming to town.
This is a huge challenge for the town. The administrators job is to give us a service we can afford.
This may not be in line with the services that we want and need.
Our problems may have begun because we did not know how to talk to each other, and how to resolve the real difficulties that we had.
The outcome from our encounter with the administrators may depend on our ability as a community to put aside factional interests and learn very rapidly to work together.