'Darzi says his rapid consultations around the country, as he prepares his interim report for October's comprehensive spending review, demonstrate widespread support for the current direction of reform'

Lord Darzi is now fully immersed in the cut and thrust of party politics. He may already have secured a footnote in political history by becoming the first world-famous surgeon to be attacked by name by an Opposition leader.

Last week David Cameron, in pugilistic form and anxious for the opportunity to take a swing at someone other than one of his own backbenchers, promised the government a 'bare-knuckle fight' to save the nation's district general hospitals, and accused the junior health minister of wanting to be rid of them.

In his interview with HSJ this week, Lord Darzi has sought to reassure those who fear his national review of health policy foreshadows a change of direction (see 'Darzi pledges not to tinker').

He says his rapid consultations around the country, as he prepares his interim report for October's comprehensive spending review, demonstrate widespread support for the current direction of reform. The essential tools, such as commissioning and competition, will remain in place. Instead he is focusing on improving clinical models for care.

But he is still promising a challenging report.

Uniquely, surely, for a junior minister, he is able to say that his appointment to government has not compromised his independence. We look forward to the proof.