Robert Francis QC has cautioned the government against allowing its review of safety in the NHS to “disappear beneath the long grass”. He also called for an “honest” conversation between the NHS and the public about which health services could be safely provided.

Immediately after the publication of Mr Francis’ Mid Staffordshire public inquiry final report, the government appointed international care expert Professor Don Berwick to carry out a review of safety and “zero harm”.

Mr Francis, in an exclusive interview with HSJ and sister title Nursing Times, said he believed the government was taking his report “very seriously” and it was “encouraging” it was taking time to respond to each of his 290 recommendations. The full response is expected in the autumn.

He said: “There is often a wish to rush into things and produce a solution overnight, and that has happened in the past and we then get unintended consequences from that.”

However, he said Professor Berwick’s review should develop a “means to implement” his recommendations and added: “There is obviously a danger that any form of review leads to a discussion, which continues to go over old ground rather than new.

“The longer these things take, the more the momentum is lost. If it results in the whole thing disappear beneath the long grass then I would be worried.”

Mr Francis revealed he had met with the national patient safety advisory group set up by Professor Berwick and had several conversations with him. Meanwhile, he also said there should be more discussion between the NHS and patients about providing safe services.

“Either you can produce the staff with the money you have got, or you say, ‘I can’t provide the service’. I think we have had a culture in the NHS for too long that it doesn’t matter what is thrown at us we will deliver, and actually we have to have a conversation about what you can deliver in a rather more honest way than what has happened before.

“I believe if my report has that impact it will have achieved its purpose.”