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Former Test and Trace boss Baroness Dido Harding applies for NHS top job

Written by on June 17, 2021

The former boss of the government’s coronavirus Test and Trace programme has applied to become the next head of the NHS.

Conservative peer Baroness Dido Harding, who is the wife of Tory MP John Penrose, formally entered the running to become the top boss of England’s healthcare system on Thursday.

The announcement was made on a biography on the NHS England website which added that Baroness Harding has stood aside from her position as chair of NHS Improvement, which she took up in October 2017, while recruitment is under way.

Dido Harding
Image: Baroness Harding was formerly chief executive of TalkTalk and held senior roles for supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Tesco

Baroness Harding was the executive chair of the government’s £22bn coronavirus Test and Trace programme until April this year, a scheme which has come under much criticism during the pandemic.

In March, a report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee found “no clear evidence” that the initiative contributed to a drop in infection levels.

Before her high-profile role with the government’s tracing programme, Baroness Harding was chief executive of TalkTalk and held senior roles for supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

“Dido has applied to become the next CEO of the NHS and has therefore stood aside as Chair of NHS Improvement whilst the recruitment process takes place. Sir Andrew Morris is standing in for her during this time,” a post on the NHS England website stated on Thursday.

More on Covid-19

If successful in her bid, she will replace current NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, who is due to stand down at the end of July.

A queue of people wait in line for their injection at the mass vaccination programe in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Image: Baroness Harding was the executive chair of the government’s £22bn coronavirus Test and Trace programme until April this year

Sir Simon has been head of the NHS in England since 2014 and will take a seat in the House of Lords alongside Baroness Harding when he steps down.

According to the 2019/20 NHS England, his salary is listed as between £195,000 and £200,000.


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