Stafford hospital: Tories deny overnight A&E pledge is 'election bribe'
A proposal to return A&E services to Stafford's hospital is not an "election bribe", the Conservatives have said.
Stafford Hospital, which was renamed County Hospital, was at the centre of a £6m public inquiry into care failings, with overnight closures beginning in 2011.
Campaigners and rival politicians said a Conservative pledge to restore services was a "bribe".
But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt denied the claim.
'Waste of money'
Mr Hunt said on Saturday that if the Conservatives won the election, overnight services would be restored as soon as soon as it was "clinically safe" to do so.
Campaigners have previously protested about the loss of services with marches through the town and a camp which was set up in the hospital grounds.
One of them, Karen Howell, is now standing for the National Health Action party in the Stafford constituency.
She said she thought the Conservative pledge was "an absolute outrage".
She said: "It's an election pledge bribe.
"Why have they spent £19.5m on the administration process to downgrade and get rid of these services, only to talk about bringing them back? It just seems ludicrous and such a waste of money."
But Mr Hunt denied it was a bribe, saying: "This hospital has been through a very, very difficult period.
"Really what I want to do is give a little bit of hope to the people who work in the hospital."
The Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, which ran the hospital, went into administration in April 2013. The hospital is now run by a new trust.
A full list of candidates for the Stafford constituency can be found here.