Hundreds of patients died as nurses provided woefully inadequate standards of care and bosses – led by former Shropshire charity chief Martin Yeates – focused on hitting targets.
Mr Yeates and his board 'ignored the warning signs and put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety', a damning report found.
Many of the patients died in pain, with harrowing accounts of people being denied access to water and left lying in squalor – some even having to clean the toilets themselves.
Today the chairman of the inquiry, Robert Francis QC, described the scandal as a 'disaster' and added: "There was a lack of care, compassion, humanity and leadership."
Between 2005 and 2009 then chief executive Mr Yeates was in charge of a regime which cut costs and reduced staff levels in a bid to hit Labour's targets and win foundation status.
For the latest from the report, see the updates below:
Mr Yeates, 54, last month resigned as chief executive of Shropshire health charity Impact Alcohol and Addiction Services amid concerns over negative publicity following his appointment. He did not appear before Mr Francis' inquiry due to ill health.
Speaking in the Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron this afternoon said that patients had been 'betrayed', and personally apologised to families. He announced the creation of a new chief inspector of hospitals.
The findings of the landmark £10 million inquiry into the hospital today concluded it was 'the worst crisis a district general hospital in the NHS can have ever known'.
Mr Francis listed some of the most shocking failures and said people would find it hard to believe they had happened in an NHS hospital.
Campaigners who kick-started exposure of the scandal at the hospital today called for the resignation of NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson on the back of the report.
The report into the hospital, where between 400 and 1,200 people died between 2005 and 2009 because of poor care, revealed managers were trying to cut costs.
The probe found the hospital was 'deprived of a proper level' of nurses to make its finances look healthier, leading to a 'completely inadequate standard of nursing'.
More than 150 nurses had left between 2006 and 2008.The 1,781-page, report comes following a 139-day inquiry in which staff past and present, politicians, unions, patients' families and medical professionals attended. It found:
Managers had no culture of listening to patients
Board members failed to get a grip on accountability
An unacceptable delay in addressing the issue of nurse shortages
Too great a degree of tolerance of poor standards and risk to patients
Patients were left for hours with food and drink out of reach, while others had to wet the beds as they were unattended for so long
The report said there had been a 'failure of communication' between different agencies to share their knowledge of concerns.
Mr Cameron said: "Hundreds of people suffered from the most appalling neglect and mistreatment. There were patients so desperate for water that they were drinking from dirty flower vases. And relatives were ignored or even reproached when pointing out the most basic things which could have saved their loved ones from horrific pain or even death."