By David WilkesSee original for photos.
Last updated at 2:17 AM on 28th April 2010
Her 'loyal and devoted' service as a Land Girl in the Second World War won her praise from Gordon Brown.
But this is the horrifyingly undignified state in which Clara Stokes had to live out her last days on an NHS ward.
Helpless and confused after suffering a stroke, the 84-year-old was left dehydrated, hungry and lying in her own faeces in a hospital bed for six hours. Relatives claim overworked nurses had ignored her.
Her daughter, Elle Chambers, photographed her plight and kept notes on her treatment during daily visits to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital.
The hospital has foundation status - a title given to NHS flagships. But Mrs Chambers, 57, was so appalled by the 'inhumane' conditions her mother endured that she has written to the Prime Minister.
She released the harrowing photographs of her mother after a poll for the Mail found that barely one in five voters think a doubling of budgets has improved the NHS.
Mrs Chambers and her daughter Michelle Plaford, 37, also found that water had been placed too far away from her bed and no staff had come to help her drink for up to 16 hours.
The pair were so disgusted by conditions they tried to feed other hungry and thirsty patients, only to be told by nursing staff they could not for 'health and safety reasons'.
At one stage the hospital almost ran out of supplies so nurses trawled wards for medication, Mrs Chambers added.
A temporary nurse misread Mrs Stokes' notes and forced uncrushed tablets down her throat, almost causing her to choke to death.
Doctors and nurses who misplaced health notes even thought Mrs Stokes was a man for the first two days, after she was admitted on December 16.
Outraged at her treatment, Mrs Stokes's family removed her from the hospital in Luton.
She died in a nursing home just days later on February 28.
Mrs Chambers wrote to Gordon Brown following the death to complain of the 'negligence', and was told by No.10 the matter had been passed to the Department of Health.
Mrs Chambers said: 'Gordon Brown said the country depended on her for survival but when she depended on her country for her survival where was it?
'I cannot stand to see Gordon Brown spouting off about the good he has done for the health service.
'It sickens me. He would never say the same if it were his own mother being treated in such an inhumane way.'
Mrs Chambers and daughter Michelle, of Northampton, spent every day in the stroke ward between midday and 8pm changing, washing and feeding Mrs Stokes.
Mrs Stokes, a retired hairdresser, was left paralysed down the left side of her body by the stroke and unable to speak.
The only time they didn't go and visit Mrs Stokes was when her ward was in isolation following a stomach bug outbreak and visiting hours were restricted.
But when they were finally allowed into the ward, they were left stunned by the conditions Mrs Stokes had been left in.
She added: 'We finally walked in and my daughter said what is that under her arm? We lifted it up and she was covered in her own diarrhoea.
'She was paralysed and couldn't call for help. This was after 3pm in the afternoon and the last time she had been checked was at 9am.'
Just 24 hours later the family found a stricken Mrs Stokes' foot trapped between bed posts caused by a faulty bed pump.
It was not known how long she was trapped and had to be freed by the matron.
Mrs Chambers added: 'I think dogs are treated better than my mother was. She was left in a pond of her own filth. Worse than an animal.
'The nurses were so overworked they haven't the time to be compassionate.
'It's so sad she was in a terrible state. My mum was 84, she was a really lively woman and was well-loved.
'They gave out food but left it out of reach of patients. You are lying there, hungry, you can't move because you've had a stroke and there is food just out of reach.
'We were warned not to feed them but you can't just sit there and watch.
'My daughter and I were endlessly helping out other patients.
'I've grown up with the National Health Service I'm just praying I don't get ill.'
Mrs Stokes was briefly moved to Capwell Grange Nursing Home on January 14 but returned to the hospital because she was not eating or drinking.
The family and doctors agreed to stop her support and she died on February 28.
Mrs Stokes was married to husband Roy for 50 years before he died 10 years ago with cancer. They had two other children David, 55, and Andrew, 51.
During the Second World War she was in the Land Army, made popular by the 1998 film Land Girls starring Anna Friel and Rachel Weisz.
She farmed and harvested the land in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, while all the men were fighting the Nazis.
In 2008 she was given a medal and thanked by Gordon Brown at a ceremony in Bedford.
Mr Brown signed Clara's Land Girl certificate praising her efforts 'at a time when our country depended upon you for its survival' in WWII and awarding her a medal.
Women were put to work in farms across Britain during Second World War as part of the war effort and affectionately known as Land Girls.
In 2007 the government announced it would reward the efforts of 30,000 surviving Land Girls with The Badge of Honour medal and certificate.
Mrs Chambers, who lives with retired firefighter husband Colin, 66, said her experience left her fearing ever having to rely on the NHS.
Luton and Dunstable Hospital apologised to the family yesterday and said it was investigating the complaints.
A spokesman denied Mrs Stokes was left unattended or that she was ever deprived of food, medication or water.
The spokesman said: 'The hospital has compelling evidence from detailed documentation to show that Mrs Stokes was not left unattended for long periods of time and that she received good nursing care and frequent attention following statutory guidelines and nursing practice.
'This is evidenced by a detailed food diary, mouthcare, being turned two-hourly to prevent pressure sores, personal care (including continence care) several times a day. We are sorry if the family felt Mrs Stokes' care was not to the standard they felt acceptable.'
The spokesman also refuted allegations that the patient's foot was caught in the bed rails or that she was left 'Unattended or dehydrated for hours on end'.
She added: 'On one occasion a nurse mistakenly gave Mrs Stokes a whole tablet instead of crushing it. Although Mrs Stokes had difficulty swallowing , it did not cause her to choke and the nurse involved reported this matter immediately to the ward sister and an apology was made to the patient and her family.'
She added: 'We regret that Mrs Stokes' family have felt the need to complain about her care while she was on ward 17 and ward 15 and the hospital has apologised for any distressing circumstances recognising how upsetting some aspects of personal care can be for relatives.
'Staff had a number of conversations about care and progress with the family during the patient's stay. The formal investigation into Mrs Chambers' complaint is continuing.'
Downing Street said the matter had been referred urgently to the Department of Health.
Socialized medicine cannot be made to work.
It can never be fixed. It can never be managed so that it works equitably and efficiently.
Either we get it repealed, and SOON, or I will be looking to move somewhere in the world where there is no socialized medicine.
If you live where there is socialized medicine, and you value your life, I suggest you do the same.