A communication failure between health watchdogs, allowed appalling standards at Stafford Hospital to go unchecked will be examined in depth as part of a public inquiry.

Outlining the probe into the “disaster” at Stafford Hospital, lead lawyer to the public inquiry Tom Kark QC, said regulatory bodies failed to take action to prevent more than 400 deaths at the hospital.

And he said even as the hospital, part of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, applied for Foundation status in 2008, there were already concerns about the high mortality rates of patients.

But despite concerns, the local PCT, Health Care Commission (HCC), Strategic Health Authority (SHA) and health watchdog Monitor all failed to address the problems.

Mr Kark said it was the trust’s drive to cut costs which led to the disastrous decline in patient care.

“There was a failure of communication between the most important bodies responsible for regulation and awarding foundation status,” he said.

“Neither side, as we shall see, accept they were at fault. The SHA were alerted to the high mortality rate in 2009, the trust said it was investigating when it was not.

“The SHA accepted uncritically the trust’s response at to the relevance of the coding (of data) to the poor mortality rate.

“The trust and the SHA disputed mortality figures and restricted the HCC’s expressions of concern.”

“The HCC behave in a largely reactive fashion which inevitably meant waiting until there had been a build up of data to support an investigation. The HCC was waiting for failure until acting.”

Mr Kark earlier announced he would be calling top bosses from the regulatory bodies in a bid to discover what had gone wrong at the hospital between 2005 and 2009.

He also said former chief executive of the hospital, Martin Yeates, had failed to make submissions to the inquiry and that his solicitors had been contacted to obtain a statement.

The inquiry, chaired by Robert Francis QC, began on Monday .