NHS managers responsible for failures will be barred from working in the health service and under-performing hospitals will be named and shamed under new plans to prevent a repeat of the "horrific" Stafford Hospital scandal.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the events at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust were a "betrayal of the worst kind" to patients and their families.
Responding to the Francis report into serious failings at the trust, Mr Hunt said a new chief inspector of hospitals will shine the spotlight on failing trusts. He also introduced a legal duty for the NHS to be honest about mistakes in care.
He announced plans to introduce a "national barring list" for managers who let their patients and the NHS down.
But he backed NHS boss Sir David Nicholson, who was in charge of the regional health authority responsible for the trust for a short period while patients were being mistreated. He said he has an "honest different of opinion" with a number of people about Sir David's responsibility for what happened at the trust.
"But I will accept that he was a manager in a system that failed to spot this happening and he shares some responsibility for that," Mr Hunt said. "The key point about him though is that he was in charge of 50 hospitals for a nine month period when some of the horrific things at Mid Staffs were happening and nothing in the system brought that to the surface. What today is about is creating a structure which will make it impossible for those kinds of problems to happen without them surfacing."
Outlining the Government's initial response to the report, which was published seven weeks ago, Mr Hunt also confirmed that hospitals would be subject to Ofsted-style ratings - where hospitals will be given a single rating such as "outstanding", "good", "requiring improvement" or "poor".
The chief inspector of hospitals, who will be responsible for giving hospitals the ratings, will also act as "whistleblower-in-chief" and will be able to highlight care failings "without fear or favour from politicians", the plans say.
If trusts do not deliver adequate care to patients, they could be put into a "failure regime" and may ultimately be put into administration, Mr Hunt added.
He outlined plans to link NHS pay progression to performance in delivering high-quality care and also proposed "statutory duty of candour" for NHS providers so that patients are fully informed if something has gone wrong with their care.