The UK health secretary wants a criminal enquiry into the failings of an NHS hospital.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph yesterday Jeremy Hunt said says it is “absolutely disgraceful” that no doctors, nurses or managers have been held to account for the poor care which led to the deaths of up to 1,200 patients between 2005 and 2008 at Staffordshire hospital.

He says the Francis report into the scandal has put “evidence in the public domain” which should form the basis of a police investigation and questions the failure of professional bodies to uncover “abuse on such a wide scale”.

“This was a public inquiry that was designed to help us understand why the system didn’t pick up what went wrong but I think it is absolutely disgraceful with all those things happening, whether it is doctors, nurses or managers, nobody has been held to account,” he told the paper.

Last week, a damning report by Robert Francis QC found that NHS managers and regulators had failed to stop the problems at the hospital, which saw receptionists left to decide which patients to treat, inexperienced doctors were put in charge of critically ill patients and nurses were not trained how to use vital equipment.

The Francis report blamed a ‘business-like NHS culture’ for the failings, which put box-ticking and cost-cutting ahead of patients’ safety. Echoing Francis’ report, Hunt says there needs to be a major change in culture across the NHS as compassion was being “crushed” out of doctors and nurses by the system.

The report also recommended that NHS staff all be made legally responsible for care, meaning they could be prosecuted if they fall below a minimum, statutory requirement – and Hunt’s interview with the Daily Telegraph suggests the government is in favour of this recommendation.

Staffordshire Police has said it is currently “studying the report’s full contents,” but has not yet made any arrests.