Professor Sir Ian Kennedy has criticised ministers' attitudes towards bad news about the NHS uncovered by his organisation. The Healthcare Commission, which Sir Ian chairs, is to be replaced in April 2009 by the new Care Quality Commission. Sir Ian will have no role in the new organisation.

Writing for a in-house newsletter (a piece reproduced in Health Service Journal) about developments he would like to have seen, Sir Ian said,

"I would have liked the annual health check and the broader role of the regulator to have been embraced more warmly by government. Regulation is a crucial element in the government's strategy to devolve responsibility from Whitehall. The regulator is the public's independent agent in making sure that all is well and, where it is not, that something is being done.

"But, given the highly politicised nature of any discussion of the NHS, government both saw the need for the regulator and at the same time felt uncomfortable about it, particularly when it brought bad news. Regulation was sometimes seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution".

This is a clear reference to behind-the-scenes rows Sir Ian is known to have had with ministers over occasions when the Commission's investigations have uncovered bad performance in the NHS.

In January 2008, a letter was leaked to HSJ revealing bitter arguments between Professor Kennedy and Health Secretary Alan johnson that the Commission had been too slow to act on the outbreaks of C Difficil at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, which caused nearly 100 fatalities. In that letter, Sir Ian had alleged that an effective strategic relationship between the Healthcare Commission and Department of Health had been historically "difficult to achieve", and that the Commission's leadership had enjoyed little access to top DH decision-makers.