The Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry report will not be published until October, it has been announced.
The report had been widely expected in late May or early June. However, in a press notice released this afternoon inquiry chair Robert Francis QC announced his intention to deliver the report to the health secretary on 15 October when Parliament returns from autumn recess.
It is then for Andrew Lansley to decide on a publication date.
The inquiry will send out warning letters in July to any individuals or organisations the chairman intends to criticise. They will then get an opportunity to respond before the report is finalised.
Mr Francis said: “It is always difficult to give an accurate timescale for any inquiry’s work. New evidence may arise at any time and I will need to consider responses to any potential criticisms carefully.
“However, I hope that by setting out my plans it will be clear how far the inquiry has come and my current expectations for delivering my report.”
The later than expected publication date means current Care Quality Commission chief executive Cynthia Bower, who gave evidence to the inquiry twice and is widely expected to face criticism, may no longer be in post.
She resigned in February and is due to leave in autumn.
Mr Francis said he had written to health secretary Andrew Lansley to inform him of the likely timetable.
He added: “Gathering and analysing the evidence before the Inquiry has been an immensely complex and challenging task, but I am keen to complete my report as soon as possible so that the lessons from Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust can be taken on board throughout the NHS.”