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Mike Farrar, the organisation's chief executive, pledged that NHS leaders would respond positively to the report and work to build a better, more patient-centred NHS.
But he warned that a simplistic blame game, excessive inspection or micromanagement would suck up resources and fail to trigger the culture change necessary.
Mr Farrar said: "This Wednesday will be one of the darkest days for the NHS but we must turn it in to an opportunity to build a better NHS for patients. Our failings in Mid Staffordshire will be laid bare - and rightly so. We have to respond.
"We need to make it easier for patients to give feedback. We need to provide the public with a clearer picture of the performance of their local services. The people in charge of running our health services should rightly be held to account when they fail act in the interests of patients
"What we don't want is a simplistic blame game, excessive inspection or micromanagement. These are false gods that externalise problems rather than putting responsibility where it belongs - in the board room and on the frontline. They suck up resources and encourage tick-box responses, not real culture change."
Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, which is part of the NHS Confederation, added:
"NHS leaders need individual and collective responses to the unnecessary distress and trauma of Mid Staffordshire. These responses must be focused on a sustainable culture change for the NHS that will endure far beyond the initial flurry of reaction to Robert Francis' report.
"Our words will be important, to show we recognise the challenge ahead, but it will be our actions on which we will be judged. We will need to show compassionate leadership for our staff and the communities we serve.
"Whatever recommendations the report includes, we need to consider our response carefully. We owe that to all those affected by the failings at Mid Staffordshire.
"I know ultimately, the report will remind us that we depend on our staff to help people when care and compassion are what matter most. We will need to test our organisational approaches to recruitment, induction, training, management and leadership. These aspects embody our culture and when they work in the right way they support the excellent care we provide to patients.
"The NHS will be making seismic changes to how care is delivered while at the same time we will be responding to the recommendations of the inquiry.
"Getting these changes right will require excellent staff engagement so we can bring about the service change we need for a sustainable and compassionate NHS."