Politicians and health officials in Britain are reacting to a blistering new report that suggests thousands may have died needlessly in British hospitals.
The Keogh Report on 14 U.K. hospital trusts, part of the National Health Service, described a series of problems, including poor care, management errors, and staff shortages.
The report confirmed suspicions held by a number of relatives of hospital patients, including Rebecca Asplin, whose mother had a blocked bowel and died of malnutrition after being sent home from the hospital with pneumonia.
Asplin recalled that her family never saw one doctor the entire time they were visiting.
"There was no need for her to suffer like that just for a blocked bowel," Asplin said. "You know, food and fluid everybody needs to survive."
Sharon Walsh called the hospital care her late grandfather Fred Harris received "appalling."
"I went in trusting that people would look after him, give him basic care, give him the respect and dignity he deserved, and he didn't get any of that," she exclaimed. "Granddad was shunted about like a suitcase--nine moves in 12 days."
"It was as if he was just part of the furniture, literally. He was just always there," another of Harris's granddaughters, Tracy Webster, said. "And no one seemed to acknowledge or take any notice, and they certainly didn't take accountability of his care."
The NHS is so much a part of the country's fabric that it was celebrated in last year's London Olympics opening ceremonies, with a worldwide audience in the billions.
But the Keogh Report on the failures and abuses has created a political hot potato in Parliament, where there are accusations that previous health ministers have covered up the extent of NHS problems.
"It is never acceptable for government ministers to put pressure on the NHS, to suppress bad news. Because in doing so, they make it likely that poor care will be tackled," Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt argued.
British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed in another forum.
"We don't serve our NHS if we cover up wrongdoing and problems," he cautioned. "We've got to look at those problems, we've got to look at any instances of poor levels of care or poor management and we've got to deal with them."
Hospital officials insist they have made progress in care over the past two years, but the latest report reflects badly on the country's health bureaucracy, which is the fifth largest employer in the world.