Former TalkTalk boss to head up NHS test and trace programme

Dido Harding has been appointed to lead the programme of testing and tracing as part of the government’s response to coronavirus. In this cross-government role, Harding will report directly report to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary.

Harding became chairman of NHS Improvement in October 2017, but is probably best known as the former chief executive of TalkTalk, which she left after seven years amid a cyber security crisis at the firm. Prior to that role, she worked for both Sainsbury’s and Tesco in a variety of senior roles.

The UK's health 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.”

Harding added: "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.”

The decision to appoint Harding may come as a surprise to many, given the gravity of the 2015 hack at the broadband provider, which affected 156,959 customers, attracted a record fine from the Information Commissioners' Office, and cost the company an estimated £77m.

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