Nursing leaders have said they will take action following criticism by Robert Francis QC that they have not done enough to respond to his public inquiry report.

The Royal College of Nursing and Unison both said they would issue detailed responses to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Inquiry report in coming weeks.

They have also defended their roles in speaking up for nurses after Mr Francis argued the profession had not reacted adequately to his report.

In an exclusive interview earlier with HSJ and sister title Nursing Times earlier this month, he claimed the nursing profession had been less responsive than either NHS managers or the medical profession and said he had little optimism that the strength of the “nursing voice” was being improved.

Following the interview, both organisations told Nursing Times they accepted Mr Francis’ comments but said they were committed to spreading awareness of his findings and recommendations to their members, and engaging with the government and NHS to implement changes.

RCN chief executive Peter Carter accepted the college may not have been as “proactive”, or clear, enough about what it was doing following the inquiry report. But he said it was “unfortunate” Mr Francis had not picked up on the work the RCN had been doing following the publication of his report.

“What we should have been a bit better about doing was to make clear what our process was. It made sense to wait until [RCN] congress in April and then issue our full response to the report in June,” he said.

Unison’s head of nursing Gail Adams said: “We are a trade union, not a professional association, but we have reflected on what else we have to do.”