Back in the summer of 2007 analysts working deep in the bowels of the leading London university Imperial College noticed something appeared amiss at a hospital many miles away.
The researchers, working for the private group Dr Foster, had spotted death rates at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust were too high.
They raised the issue with the Healthcare Commission in July, and then the following month more anomalies were noted by the Imperial team.
The Healthcare Commission’s own assessment system also started noticing potential problems, and within months a full investigation was launched.
It resulted in the watchdog publishing one of its most damning reports on an individual NHS trust.
The Healthcare Commission said standards of emergency care were “appalling” and would have led to unnecessary deaths.