Sir David Behan has announced his intention to step down as chief executive of Care Quality Commission.
He will continue in the role until the summer to allow the appointment process for a successor to take place.
Sir David said: “After six years at CQC and over 40 years continuous employment in health and social care, I will be stepping down in the summer.
”I am announcing my departure now to allow Peter Wyman and the board sufficient time to appoint my successor and to allow for a smooth handover.
“It’s been an immense privilege to serve the public by leading CQC, and I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved.
“I now feel it’s time to move on, to make a contribution in a different way and to allow someone else to lead the organisation to the next stage of its development.”
Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt described Sir David as “an exceptional leader”.
He added: “He is highly respected across the sector for his wisdom, drive and fearless determination to put patients first.
“He deserves great credit for overhauling healthcare regulation in this country to put quality and safety at the heart of the ratings system. He should be incredibly proud of his record, and will be sorely missed.”
The CQC said the process to find Sir David’s replacement will begin shortly.
The appointment of the chief executive is made by CQC non-executive directors.
Sir David was awarded a knighthood for services to health and care in the New Year’s Honours list.
He was previously the director general of social care, local government and care partnerships at the Department of Health, where he was a member of the NHS Management Board.
Sir David has also been president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, and the was first chief inspector of the Commission for Social Care Inspection.