The chairman of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry is aiming to publish his report in the last week of May or the first week of June, HSJ understands.
If it goes ahead as planned, publication will come just weeks after the Health Bill’s parliamentary deadline and either just before or after the extended bank holiday weekend for the Queen’s diamond Jubilee.
The bill must be passed before the current legislative session ends on or around 9 May. If the report comes after this any recommendations requiring primary legislation, such as a single economic and quality regulator or statutory regulation of healthcare assistants, would have to be the subject of a separate bill.
HSJ understands inquiry chairman Robert Francis QC is keen for the report to be ready in time for the NHS Confederation conference from 20 to 22 June so the findings and the learning can be discussed and digested.
In his closing comments to the inquiry Mr Francis said he was not going to offer “any indication” of when it would be published as estimates were likely to be wrong.
Under the rules governing public inquiries, the chairman must give prior notification to any individuals he plans to criticise in his report and allow them a reasonable amount of time to respond.
If individuals strongly disagree with Mr Francis criticisms they can challenge his findings, a process which could delay the publication of the report.
The report is widely expected to be critical of a number of senior officials in the NHS and Department of Health, including health service chief executive Sir David Nicholson and Care Quality Commission chief executive Cynthia Bower, who announced her resignation yesterday.
A spokeswoman for the inquiry said no date had yet been set for the publication and declined to comment on whether Mr Francis had sent out any warning letters to date.
She denied the DH had a draft of the report and said it was still under consideration whether designated core participants in the inquiry would receive a copy prior to publication.
As well as the DH, the 13 core participants to the inquiry include South Staffordshire Primary Care Trust, NHS West Midlands, Monitor, the CQC and local campaign group Cure the NHS.