'Our Biggest Opportunity: Investing in the Tremendous Leadership Pool We Have in the NHS'

During a recent visit to the University of Pennsylvania, Ara Darzi, Lord Darzi of Denham, spoke with Wharton management professor Michael Useem about the British National Health Service (NHS) and how it plans to meet the challenges of delivering quality health care in England over the next decade. Darzi was appointed Health Minister by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in June 2007.

Darzi, a surgeon who still practices surgery two and one-half days a week, noted the importance of prevention, which he said, "is better than cure … and cheaper than treating illness." He cited obesity as an example. "We look at obesity as seriously as climate change, because we believe, from a health perspective, that it could have the biggest impact on the health of our population." Equally important is "quality, which is not more expensive…. Doing things right the first time, giving patients access at an earlier stage of their disease — that in itself'" will lower health care costs.

On the subject of leadership, Darzi noted that the NHS will be focusing on developing leadership at all levels of the system. "The question is, how do you activate that?" he asked. "How do you promote the leadership gene that exists in the system? That, in itself, requires more than just saying, 'Go out there and be a leader.' Leadership has to have a purpose."

For a transcript of the full interview, click here.