Lord Ara Darzi is to stand down as health minister when parliament goes into recess for the summer.
Lord Darzi (pictured), who two years ago was appointed by the prime minister to lead the NHS Next Stage Review, and who introduced primary healthcare reforms including the introduction of polyclinics, announced his plans last week (15 July 2009).
In a statement, Lord Darzi said: "Two years ago … we brought together thousands of clinicians and patients to determine the way forward for the NHS, and in June 2008, published our report, High Quality Care for All.
"For the past year, I have overseen implementation of the report's conclusion. The great strides taken by the NHS have only been made possible through the government's commitment to a massive increase in investment and to guiding the health service through the difficult but necessary reforms of the past decade.
"The NHS is now the first health system in the world to systematically measure, record and openly publish information on its quality of care. There has also been a tremendous change in the level of ambition for what is possible. The NHS now has the investment and the depth of clinical talent to achieve that ambition.
"During my time as a minister, I have maintained my clinical practice and research. The time has now come for me to return to care for my patients, lead my academic department, and continue my research full time. I will be stepping down from my post as Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department of Health when Parliament goes into recess for the summer.
"I would like to thank the prime minister for his leadership, support and the courage it took to appoint a frontline doctor to undertake a fundamental review of the future direction of the NHS. I am deeply grateful to him for having given me the privilege of serving as a government minister and for giving me the freedom to make tough but important decisions.
"Raising the quality of patient care has driven and inspired me throughout my career — as a surgeon and as a minister. Making quality the organising principle of the NHS has revitalised professional pride, created great appetite for improvement, and built enormous momentum. This movement for change is now embedded across the NHS and will continue for many years to come."
He added that he will continue to support the Department of Health in an advisory role.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham paid tribute to "the immense contribution that Ara Darzi has made as a minister during his time in government."
Mr Burnham said: "The Next Stage Review has set a defining vision for the NHS for years to come, embedding quality at the heart of everything it does, and engaging thousands of staff and patients along the way. This vision is now being delivered locally, by front line staff, who will continue to develop and deliver the changes set out in the Next Stage Review in the years ahead.
"I am delighted that Ara will remain part of this process through his new advisory role and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him in the future."
What's your reaction? What do you think will Lord Darzi's legacy be to general practice? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Quit while you're ahead seems to be Lord Darzi's motto. A peerage, two years serving a government willing to throw money at an unproven system and worldwide recognition for a surgeon seems a good trade off for Lord Darzi. The NHS is left with a system of GP-led health centres that have cost far more than just improving local services in most areas, private companies taking a profit out of the NHS and patients with raised expectations that can only be partially met in a cash-limited service" – Name and address withheld