The Department of Health has lost a lengthy battle to block the publication of a report into the axed NHS University.

It has been forced to climb down after spending two and a half years refusing a Freedom of Information request from health academic Rob Ward.

The report was written by former NHS Appointments Commission chair Sir William Wells about the health service's in-house training and education body NHSU, which was dissolved in 2005.

Mr Ward, a health informatics lecturer at the University of the West of England, pursued the FOI request in a personal capacity and says he is relieved the fight is finally over.

He told HSJ: 'The fact that it has taken so long totally goes against any principles of open government.

'The NHS should be improving the learning opportunities for its workforce by reflecting on what has happened in the past, but it has been obstructive in the extreme.'

In January 2005, Mr Ward became the first person to make an FOI request from the DoH. He expects the report to show that millions of pounds were wasted on the NHSU, which closed two years after it was launched.

The DoH refused to hand over the document, which led to the information commissioner ruling last November that the report should be made public.

When the DoH appealed, an information tribunal was scheduled for last Wednesday. This was cancelled at the last minute when the DoH withdrew its appeal.

A spokeswoman for the information commissioner confirmed that the appeal had been dropped.