He said the NHS had 'let people down in the most devastating way'.
He said: "As a human being, and as chief executive of the NHS, I want to apologise to the people, their families and carers for the truly dreadful experiences that they had to go through.
"I apologise to them on behalf of the NHS as a whole and for the fact that those patients, relatives and carers found themselves in the position where they not only had terrible things happen to them but the very organisation they looked to for support let them down in the most devastating of ways.
"But apologies are not enough and we need to be relentless in our efforts to put things right.
"We need to ensure that Boards are focused on what their patients think about their services. We cannot find ourselves again where we force dedicated people such as those in Cure the NHS to take the steps they took simply to achieve the aim of being listened to on behalf of their relatives and loved ones."
He said he wanted to put patients 'at the top table' meaning at least two lay people should be on every new commissioning organisation making decisions about healthcare.
And he said data on the quality of all services from GP practices to individual hospital consultants would be published to ensure transparency.
Sir David went on to disclose that he has been diagnosed with diabetes recently.
Julie Bailey, of the campaign group Cure the NHS, and whose mother died at Stafford, said dismissed Sir David's apology and insisted he resign.
"It is just empty words now. This man allowed hundreds of people to die. He had the opportunity in May 2008, before the Healthcare Commission's original report, to speak to us and instead he warned the HCC investigation team that we were a lobby group.
"He then ordered an analysis of the high mortality rate at Mid Staffs which suggested there was not a problem at the trust.
"He should tender his resignation, clear his desk and promise never work in public office again."
She said his apology was nothing more than an attempt to 'get in their first' in order to ward off any personal criticism he may face from Francis.