Ara Darzi, Baron Darzi of Denham

Ara Warkes Darzi, Baron Darzi of Denham, KBE (born 7 May 1960), is one of the world's leading surgeons, specialising in the field of minimally invasive and robot-assisted surgery, having pioneered many new techniques and technologies.

Personal Details

Darzi is of Armenian Christian origin. He was born in Iraq and spent most of his childhood there before moving to Ireland at the age of seventeen.

Although he has become strongly identified with reform of the National Health Service (NHS) in England, Lord Darzi did not initially train within the NHS, as he studied medicine in the Republic of Ireland, at the undergraduate facility of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and subsequently obtained the postgraduate degree of MD at Trinity College, Dublin.

He eventually moved to the UK from Ireland to further his career, and in 2002 became a British citizen. He was awarded a knighthood for his services to medicine and surgery, and subsequently elevated to the peerage.

He is married to Wendy with whom he has two children, Freddie and Nina.

Medical career

Darzi joined Imperial College London in 1994, becoming Head of Division in 1998. He is a consultant surgeon at St Mary's Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust academic health science centre, and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust with a large clinical practice specialising in keyhole surgery. Darzi and his team are internationally respected for their innovative work in the advancement of minimal invasive surgery and in the development and use of allied technologies including surgical robots and image-guided surgery. This work has received international recognition including the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence in 2004.

In addition to his initial Fellowship of the Dublin College, Darzi has been elected to Fellowship of the sister Royal Colleges of Surgeons of England, Edinburgh and Glasgow. He is also Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and more recently awarded an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering for his research contribution to bioengineering research.

The innovative work of Darzi and his team in education and assessment of surgeons, including the use of simulations and virtual reality, is internationally recognised as showing the way forward for surgical education. They were awarded in 2001 the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Excellence in Higher and Further Education in recognition for achievements in pioneering new technologies to address training requirements for trainee surgeons, surgeons in post and other professionals.

Political career

On 29 June 2007 Professor Sir Ara Darzi was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Lords) at the Department of Health by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. He was created a life peer on 12 July 2007 as Baron Darzi of Denham, of Gerrards Cross in the County of Buckinghamshire. His appointment was part of Brown's Government of all the talents.

On 4 July 2007 Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Health, announced in the House of Commons that Lord Darzi was to carry out a "wide-ranging review of the NHS" to ensure that "a properly resourced NHS is clinically led, patient-centred and locally accountable." It would also "consider the case for a new NHS constitution". The review was to "directly engage patients, NHS staff and the public on four critical challenges":

  1. to ensure that clinical decision making is at the heart of the future of the NHS...
  2. to improve patient care, including providing high-quality, joined-up services for those suffering long-term or life-threatening conditions...
  3. to ensure that more accessible and convenient care is integrated across primary and secondary providers...
  4. to establish a vision for the next decade of the health service that is based less on central direction and more on patient control, choice and local accountability...

An interim report, Our NHS, Our Future, was published on 4 October 2007. The final report of this review, High Quality Care for All was published on 30 June 2008, along with A High Quality Workforce, which sets out how the findings relating to the NHS workforce will be taken forward, and a consultation on a draft NHS constitution.

The report, High Quality Care for All has provoked a range of views:

  • Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Healthcare Commission, said "The proposals should be given a fair wind - they deserve one", while cautioning that "it is essential to have an independent assessment of progress [and] the document is somewhat short on how this will come about and the role of regulation.
  • Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "Our initial impressions are positive. We were pleased to contribute to the review and are happy that Lord Darzi is proposing a greater emphasis on quality in measuring NHS performance. Doctors have contributed to the review - now we need to make sure they are fully involved in implementing the plans locally and nationally."
  • The BMA were more critical, with Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the council, observing that while "there is much there we can support – in principle", there were serious concerns "that the fine words and aspirations will be just that, fine words and aspirations but not matched by realistic or sensible implementation", that "the Darzi process has up to now, to say the least, been patchy", and that "unacceptable variation in the performance of managers and trusts" meant "Darzi's proposals, even if good in principle, will fail to deliver in practice.
  • Bryan Stoten, Chair of the NHS Confederation said: "This strategy presents opportunities for partners across primary care to work together to improve patient care and this is something that clinicians will be keen to engage with. We know people increasingly want a greater say in their health services and control of their own care.
  • Allyson Pollock suggested in a comment piece in The Guardian that the plans are an attempt to "dismantle and privatise the NHS delivery system, its staff and services – handing taxpayers' funds to multinational companies, and remodelling the service along the lines of US healthcare.
  • The concept of "patient choice" has been criticised by the Libertarian Marxist internet magazine Spiked as "a rhetorical cover, a kind of weasel-worded camouflage, for the government's own desire to shake up the NHS" and as functioning in reality to reduce actual patient choice in healthcare. It has also been criticised for using meaningless language in the manner of spin.

Prior to his appointment in the House of Lords, in December 2006 NHS London asked Professor Sir Ara Darzi to "develop a strategy to meet Londoners' health needs over the next five to ten years". The report Healthcare for London: A Framework for Action was published on 11 July 2007. Recommendations included the development of academic health science centres and the introduction of polyclinics.


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