Press release

New chair of coronavirus ‘test and trace’ programme appointed

Baroness Dido Harding has been appointed to lead the programme of testing and tracing as part of the government’s ongoing response to coronavirus (COVID-19). 

  • Baroness Dido Harding appointed to head up test and trace programme
  • Position will oversee implementation of the new NHS app, mass testing and contact tracing programme

Baroness Dido Harding has been appointed to lead the programme of testing and tracing as part of the government’s ongoing response to coronavirus. 

Her appointment has been confirmed by the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, and Baroness Harding will start immediately, with the roll out of the programme to begin from mid-May. This is a cross-government role and Baroness Harding will directly report to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary.

Professor John Newton will be the professional link into public health expertise and will support the science of the programme alongside the deputy chief medical officers. His role is being expanded to allow him to ensure coordination between the testing and test and trace programmes, supporting Baroness Harding.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“I am delighted that Baroness Harding is taking on this vital role as part of our fight against coronavirus. Her significant experience in healthcare and fantastic leadership will be an added strength to our test and trace programme, and her work will be pivotal in our efforts to turn the tide on this virus and keep people safe.”

Baroness Dido Harding said:

“I welcome the opportunity to take on this role and help the brilliant efforts being made by the NHS and healthcare system to drive down infection rates and contain this virus. As we move to the next phase of the government’s plan, I am confident that we can use the very best of our tech, research, and people power to help keep COVID-19 at bay.”

Chair of NHS Improvement, Baroness Harding will lead on the new NHS COVID-19 app, swab and antibody testing, contact tracing, national surveillance as well as immunity certification. This is an unpaid role and Baroness Harding has been appointed due to her experience in healthcare and successfully leading large organisations and programmes.

Baroness Harding’s appointment comes as the NHS has launched its COVID-19 app on the Isle of Wight, which will speed up contact tracing, support testing and provide advice to help people protect themselves and the NHS.

A key part of test and trace, the launch of the app will improve understanding of how this next phase of the government’s strategy will work for the rest of the population.

Background information

Baroness Harding

  • Dido became Chair of NHS Improvement on 30 October 2017
  • She is a non-executive director on the Court of the Bank of England and Chair of the Bank’s Remuneration Committee. She was Chief Executive of TalkTalk Telecom Group plc from 2010 to May 2017
  • Prior to TalkTalk, Dido was Sainsbury’s convenience director, having been appointed to Sainsbury’s operating board in March 2008. Dido joined Sainsbury’s from Tesco plc where she held a variety of senior roles both in the UK and international businesses
  • Prior to this, she worked at Kingfisher plc and Thomas Cook Limited where she gained considerable retail experience. She has also served on the boards of the British Land Company plc and Cheltenham Racecourse
  • She is a trustee of Doteveryone and a member of the UK National Holocaust Foundation Board
  • In August 2014, Dido was offered a peerage and sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer. She was appointed to the Economic Affairs Committee of the Lords in July 2017

John Newton

Professor John Newton has been Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England since 2012, responsible for health improvement functions. Over the course of his career he has:

  • led England’s contribution to the Global Burden of Disease project
  • been Chairman of the WHO European Burden of Disease Network
  • been Honorary Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology at the University of Manchester and University of Exeter
  • been an academic epidemiologist in the University of Oxford
  • Director of Research and Development in 2 large NHS teaching hospitals (Southampton and Oxford)
  • been first Director and Chief Executive Officer of UK Biobank
  • been Regional Director of Public Health for NHS South Central
Published 7 May 2020