By politics.co.uk staff
Mid-Staffordshire NHS foundation trust has been strongly criticised for its "appalling" emergency care.
The Healthcare Commission found "significant failures" in emergency care, leadership and management, after investigating the trust following the deaths of 400 more people than expected.
There were deficiencies at "virtually every stage" in the care of people admitted as emergencies, the report said.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "The public will be rightly shocked by the poor standards of care exposed at this hospital.
"It is unacceptable that the pursuit of targets - not the safety of patients - was repeatedly prioritised, alongside endless managerial change and a 'closed' culture, which failed to admit and deal with things going wrong."
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "It is a disgrace that so many lives have been lost unnecessarily in this hospital.
"This is one of the worst ever examples of a hospital trust putting targets before the patients in their care."
The criticism will have a devastating effect on the government's argument for its flagship foundation hospital policy - launched under Tony Blair - which argued that introducing the private sector to public services would improve standards.
The commission cited low staffing levels, inadequate nursing, lack of equipment, lack of leadership, poor training and ineffective systems for identifying when things went wrong.
Receptionists who were not qualified to do so carried out initial checks on patients arriving in A&E, heart monitors were turned off on the emergency assistant unit because nurses did not know how to use them, there were not enough nurses to provide proper care to patients on wards.
The board did not routinely discuss the quality of care.
Sir Ian Kennedy, the commission's chairman, said: "This is a story of appalling standards of care and chaotic systems for looking after patients.
"There were inadequacies at almost every stage in the care of emergency patients. There is no doubt that patients will have suffered and some of them will have died as a result.
The commission launched its investigation at the trust in March 2008 in response to concerns from local people and when it became clear that the trust stood out statistically in terms of the high death rates of patients admitted as emergencies.