Jeremy Hunt has compared the Mid Staffs scandal to Chernobyl and the Bhopal gas disaster in an interview with ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener.
The Health Secretary said the accidents - both of which killed thousands and left many more injured - were "turning points" for their industries.
He said he hoped Mid Staffs would mark a similar change in the NHS.
Asked if similar negligence extended across the system, Mr Hunt said front-line staff have warned that "Mid Staffs wasn't just something that happened in one hospital".
NHS patients are best protected when wards have the right number of staff working, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has warned.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of midwives, initially praised Jeremy Hunt's plans to make the NHS safer, but raised concerns over low staff numbers and lack of protection for whistleblowers.
I worry that I have heard this before from Governments without any real progress being made.
Safety is about having the right numbers of staff and high-performing teams working together to deliver the best care, and this is crucial if we are to deliver safe maternity care.
Safety also needs NHS staff being treated properly with trusts promoting open, honest and caring cultures if they are to get the best out of them; you can only have candour if staff feel their concerns will be listened to, they are treated with compassion and that they will be given the support they need.
The Mid-Staffs scandal, in which appalling conditions lead to hundreds of patients dying prematurely, should be "a turning point" in NHS culture, Jeremy Hunt has said.
In a speech at the Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, the Health Secretary outlined plans to create a "more open, compassionate and transparent culture" in the health service.
It is my clear ambition that the NHS should become the safest healthcare system anywhere in the world.
I want the tragic events of Mid Staffs to become a turning point in the creation of a more open, compassionate and transparent culture within the NHS.
We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to save lives and prevent avoidable harm - which will empower staff and save money that can be reinvested in patient care.
Hospitals are already 'signing up to safety' as part of this new movement - and I hope all NHS organisations will soon join them.
The point at which hospitals have to tell a patient they have been harmed will be reviewed by the Government as part of an updated "duty of candour" for the NHS, the Health Secretary has announced.
Speaking at the Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, Jeremy Hunt outlined plans to revise the legal threshold at which hospitals have to inform patients and suggested those at the lower end of the scale would not be told.
The Government caused outrage last November when it said the duty of candour should mean patients and families are only told of harm if it results in death or severe disability.
However, in his speech, Mr Hunt outlined plans aimed at reducing the £1.3 billion the NHS annually spends on litigation and saving 6,000 lives over the next three years.
He said NHS organisations will be invited to "sign up to safety" and set out publicly their ambitious plans for reducing avoidable harm, such as medication errors, blood clots and bed sores.
The Head of Nursing at Unison says even if recruitment standards are consistent across the country, today's recommendations don't go far enough. Ail Adams said:
"Nurses have been trained in the fundamentals of care.
"But I think the Government has fallen short today with staffing levels. It's all very well to recommend the health watchdog NICE develops the guidelines for them to be applied locally."
"But if we look at other international models, in America and Australia they have minimum nurse to patient ratios."
Speaking to ITV News Julie Bailey, from the 'Cure the NHS' campaign, said today's announcement only amounted to a small step in the right direction.
"We know there are failings in the NHS now and there's nothing being done about it. We need to ensure the culture changes, and the behaviour of the people in the NHS, and that starts at the top.
"These were systemic failings from the ward right to the top of Whitehall. I don't seem to see anything in the recommendations to ensure that Whitehall has learnt."
Today's announcement from Jeremy Hunt means failing NHS bosses will be put on a blacklist which will stop them working in the health service:
- The Health Secretary wants a "national barring list" for managers who let their patients and the NHS down
- 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 also confirmed that hospitals would be subject to Ofsted-style ratings - where hospitals will be rated as outstanding, good, requiring improvement or poor
The Health Secretary is expected to announce a ban on gagging orders, which prevent NHS whistleblowers expressing concerns about patient safety, in a response to the Francis Report on Mid Staffordshire Trust.
Chris Dalziel lost her husband George after a routine operation at Stafford Hospital in 2007.
She said: "We've got to have people that will actually stand up, and they're not going to suffer by losing jobs through whistle blowing. People need to come forward, they need to be honest about everything that's going on in the hospital".
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will today announce a more practical emphasis of policy for aspiring nurses.
"Frontline, hands-on caring experience and values need to be equal with academic training," Mr Hunt will say.
"These measures are about recruiting all staff with the right values and giving them the training they need to do their job properly, so that patients are treated with compassion."