Test and trace boss is married to a Conservative MP and sits as a Conservative in the House of Lords
The former head of the government’s much criticised test and trace service has officially put in a bid to run the £130 billion and stepped aside from her role as chair of NHS Improvement while her bid is considered.
Baroness Harding is the wife of Conservative MP John Penrose and when she was appointed to lead NHS Improvement – now part of NHS England – she refused to give up the Tory whip in the House of Lords.
She had previously confirmed she was considering making a bid for the top job in a move which drew criticism because of her clear political stance.
The Labour Party made clear whoever was appointed needing to have a solid track record.
Justin Madders, the junior shadow health minister, said: “We hope the recruitment process takes candidates’ recent achievements into account, but test and trace’s performance speaks for itself.”
If appointed she would take over the NHS as controversial new legislation to reform the structure of the health service goes through Parliament.
Her application was confirmed on NHS England’s website today, first reported by the Health Service Journal, in an update to her official biography.
It said: “Dido became chair of NHS Improvement on 30 October 2017. 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.”
Baroness Harding will replace Sir Simon Stevens who has been head of the NHS in England since 2014 and who will himself take a seat in the House of Lords when he steps down next month.
In a speech earlier this week Sir Simon said his successor needed to continue to “make the weather” in terms of being outspoken on key areas where the NHS needed to have an opinion.