NHS staff should not be confident they would have acted differently to their counterparts at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, the man leading the government’s post Francis review of patient safety has warned.

Leading international patient safety expert Don Berwick told a conference of NHS managers and clinicians held today to contribute to his review that to do so would be ignoring the impact of “human factors” on individuals’ behaviour.

“It’s easy to read the Francis report and become angry, I did… but that’s a beginning of a process I would counsel against [and] that is thinking we are different and we would have acted differently.

“Do not distance yourself from the staff at Mid Staffordshire, you would have committed similar errors in an unsafe environment,” he said.

Professor Berwick was appointed by prime minister David Cameron to lead a review looking how the NHS can improve its approach to patient safety following the publication of the Francis report.

About 500 delegates attended the conference today hosted by the National Patient Safety Advisory Group which Professor Berwick set up to oversee his review. It includes senior NHS managers and clinicians, leading academics and patient representatives.

Asked why there was a need for a review following the report, and whether the group would be willing to contradict Francis’ and the government’s plans, Professor Berwick said it would look at how the recommendations could be implemented and apply safety science to them.

He added: “I would not have taken this assignment on, nor would any of my colleagues, were we not completely independent….

“If the committee comes up with a recommendation that goes in a different direction from the government or the NHS executive we will say so.”

Professor Berwick, who has advised President Barack Obama on healthcare, urged the NHS to “remember how far you have come”. He pointed to the “tremendous progress on access” in the last decade as evidence the health service could make dramatic change if it committed to it.