Gordon Brown has apologised in the House of Commons for the failings of a hospital described as “appalling” by an NHS watchdog.
Poor standards in emergency care at Stafford Hospital meant patients needlessly died, a report by the Healthcare Commission found.
The prime minister said he wanted to apologise to those who had suffered.
The government has already said a series of inquiries would be held to find out what went wrong.
Mr Brown said: “We do apologise to those people who have suffered as a result of the mistakes that have been made at Stafford Hospital.”
But he reject suggestions NHS targets had contributed to the problems identified.
“There were low standards of management.”
Health Secretary Alan Johnson also apologised for the “pain and anguish” caused.
He confirmed government officials would be investigating current standards of emergency care and why local and regional health bosses failed to spot the problems at the time.