Lord Darzi has always maintained that he is a doctor and not a politician. Well that is certainly true now. But, having announced his intention to step down as a Minister so he can spend more time with his patients, what kind of ministerial legacy does he leave?
The short answer is that is too early to tell, although the early signs are encouraging: he has successfully shifted the health debate away from structures and system processes (Payment by Results, Foundation Trusts etc) towards a new focus on quality, innovation, productivity and prevention. Yesterday’s Office of Life Sciences announcement shows how seriously this is being taken across Whitehall. Ambitious civil servants and NHS managers have embraced the Next Stage Review rhetoric with alacrity.
However, the challenge, as ever in health, will be to translate this into everyday reality.>
Here the Darzi agenda faces some stern tests. Pandemic flu, a Government struggling in the polls and the recession could all blow the Next Stage Review off course.
Health Mandate’s own report on the commissioning priorities of PCTs – launched yesterday – shows that the focus on delivering efficiency and quality improvements is still patchy, although an encouraging start has been made. Ironically for a man very much focused on secondary care, how PCTs adapt to the challenges of the recession in their commissioning strategies will go a long way towards determining Lord Darzi’s legacy.
Irrespective of this, Lord Darzi has proved to be one of the most successful of Gordon Brown’s ‘goats’ (that’s ‘Government Of All the TalentS’) He made the cut in Health Mandate’s 2009 poll of the best ever Labour health ministerial team and he will be a tough act to follow for whoever replaces him.