back to article Just when everyone thought things might be looking up, Dido Harding admits interest in top job at NHS England

Baroness Dido "Queen of Carnage" Harding, former TalkTalk CEO and current head of NHS Test and Trace, is reportedly eyeing the top job at NHS England. According to The Times, the exec has expressed an interest to various leaders in the healthcare sector. If selected, she would replace Sir Simon Stevens, who has served as CEO …

  1. Roger Kynaston

    No! Just no!

    There is nothing else to say really.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: No! Just no!

      "...the biggest learning..."

      In particular, Dido, that didn't need to be said. Ever.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Check with the Anti-Corruption Champion?

    Should this be checked with the Prime Minister's Anti-Corruption Champion? This is currently John Penrose, Conservative MP for Weston-Super-Mare. And the husband of... Dido Harding.

    1. ragnar

      Re: Check with the Anti-Corruption Champion?

      Surprised this wasn't in the article actually.

  3. Tom 38

    In October 1995, she married John Penrose, who was elected MP for Weston-super-Mare in 2005 and went on to hold junior minister posts from 2010 to 2019 .... Penrose sits on the advisory board of a think tank called 1828, which calls for the NHS to be replaced by an insurance system and for Public Health England to be scrapped.

    Dido, Queen of Carnage, should not be allowed anywhere near the NHS. Not only has she proven incompetent at every task she has undertaken since joining TalkTalk, but she is married to someone who wants to destroy the NHS. It takes a special kind of fuckwit to look at US healthcare and say "That looks good, let's have some of that over here".

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      It takes a special kind of person to be sure they will be well rewarded for delivering a private health service to their new bosses

    2. Big Softie

      The Public Sector has a good track record of appointing special kinds of fuckwits to massively overpaid positions.....

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    She went to university with David Cameron (who created her a peer in 2014), she sits on the board of the Jockey Club (based in Matt Hancock's constituency) and happens to be married to the government's "anti-corruption champion", who is very publicly a director of a far-right-wing campaigning group who have loudly called for the privatisation of the NHS.

    But of course it's her _experience_ that qualifies her for the job. Everything else is just coincidence!

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Sometimes I think they keep following the drummer principle of Spinal Tap where previous experience seems to matter little.

      Hang on! That gives me an idea: maybe Spinal Tap should offer her the position as drummer!

    2. macjules

      So she has good experience of flogging a dead horse around. That will help when she comes to sell off the NHS for a £1 in true UK government fashion.

    3. Youngone Silver badge

      Born to Rule

      I don't see what the problem is.

      If you had made a better choice of parents you too could have continued to fail upwards.

  5. juliansh

    Thank you The Register for providing the data opt out link in the article. It was a good reminder for me to do my duty (and opt out)

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Problem is that if too many people opt out, they'll cancel the program. Then restart it in a couple of years so that we all have to opt out all over again!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's actually the wrong link for the GP opt out. There are now two opt-outs.

      The GP one is called type 1.

      It has to be done in writing.

      There will be twenty opt out types soon.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge


        Or, you could just visit at MedConfidential and have all the right links at your disposal.

        Complete with forms that you can drop off at your GP surgery and/or the NHS. :-)

  6. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    £37 billion

    To be fair to Baroness Harding (which is not how I ever expected to start any sentence), the sum of £37 billion is what has been set aside rather than what has actually been spent. In her interview on 'Woman's Hour' (well worth a listen if you thought it would be a cushy option for Harding) she states that the main cost is the tests, and the more tests the greater the cost. She also said that she was asked by Boris Johnson to run test and trace, which kind of implies that she did not even have to apply and that there was no actual competition for the job.

    To be accurate about Harding, she declined several offers to apologise for anything, denied that Test and trace could have been better (despite being given the examples of New Zealand, Australia and other significantly more effective systems) and denied that there was an existing NHS or local government test and trace capability in the UK when she started. Several emails were read out contradicting her position, which she really did not address.

    So I grade Harding 9/10 for brazen arrogance, and 2/10 for reality. However, I rate the interviewer 10/10 for doing an excellent job.

    (Oh, and as I sent an email to the Register's Mr Kunert about 40 minutes before broadcast I feel that I may, in some small way, have alerted them to the 'Woman's Hour' interview, as obviously they could not possibly have found out from any other source.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £37 billion

      >the sum of £37 billion is what has been set aside rather than what has actually been spent

      This is entirely correct (and what she will say) but it has to be stated equally in fairness that this cost is dominated by the strategic decisions (i.e. her decisions) to run the whole thing centrally rather than via local public health directorates, with contact tracing farmed out to Capita/TLC et al and with testing for some reason farmed out to Deloitte and co.

      There's also a reasonable argument to be had we tested too much and in the wrong ways, for example by spending significantly on lateral flow tests in the community rather than at the border.

      The same strategic decisions that stopped T&T from being effective are the same ones that drove the costs out of control.

    2. Jonathon Green

      Re: £37 billion

      “…the sum of £37 billion is what has been set aside rather than what has actually been spent. ”

      So it’ll probably end up somewhere around the £100 billion mark in the final accounting then?

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: £37 billion

      "So I grade Harding 9/10 for brazen arrogance, and 2/10 for reality."

      Where did the 2 come from?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: £37 billion

        Turning up in the right place for the interview, presumably

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: £37 billion

          She accepted that Test and Trace had been unprepared for the surge in tests required in September when the schools went back.

          She said that she did not believe that Test and Trace could ever have prevented the need for lockdown.

          She was decidedly unhappy about the 'impossible' targets for Testing set by Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson early on (but denied to criticise them directly).

          Oh, and she seemed to be speaking in English throughout the interview and didn't actually waffle as much as some have.

          Listen to it yourself and let me know whether you agree with my marking.

      2. EnviableOne

        Re: £37 billion

        which was exactly her assessment in handling the data breach at Talk Talk

        Hwy is failing up still a thing in this country...

  7. xyz Silver badge

    I still cant read...

    Dido Harding without a snigger.

  8. GreggS

    She's a friend of BoJo the clown so will probably get the job no questions asked or other people interviewed.

  9. chivo243 Silver badge

    Not to self

    Do NOT get sick while visiting the UK if she gets the job!

    1. Danny 2

      Re: Not to self

      Well, it's NHS England so the rest of the UK should be fine. If you fall ill in England don't head to a hospital, get on a train to Scotland.

      Test and Trace started a bit of a mess here too, but our nurses and health care workers got a 4% raise and a covid bonus rather the 1% rise/real terms cut in England.

      1. drand

        Re: Not to self

        Good idea, but that would rely on this government having not fucked up the rail network.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not to self

          "Great British Railways", the new farce starring Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as the Fat Controller

      2. chivo243 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Not to self

        Thanks for the advice!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only...

    ... someone could dig up an old tweet or blog posting where she expressed some sort of dubious or poorly expressed opinion on a matter of current interest. That might just sink her... nothing else seems to :-)

    1. My-Handle

      Re: If only...

      Or, given her general knowledge of IT security, just send her an email with the subject line "You have been selected for the role of NHS CEO", a flimsy email body encouraging her to click a link for details, directing to a mock-up gov login page asking for her social media credentials.

      She'll be publishing all sorts of questionable stuff to social media within hours, I'd wager.

    2. BazNav

      Re: If only...

      Well that's just not cricket

    3. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: If only...

      My dear Sir, you may need to sit down and relax before reading this:

      Mr Johnson (you know, the current 'Prime Minister') has been sacked twice for telling lies, has likened muslim women to both terrorists and pillar boxes, yet got elected.

      Priti Patel was accused of bullying her staff, found to have been in breech of the ministerial code, but Mr Johnson (see above) let her keep her job as 'Home Secretary'.

      Dominic Cummings drove hundreds of miles during lockdown to Yorkshire to ensure 'child care' while possibly suffering from Covid-19, then to Barnard Castle 'to test his eyesight' for driving, and kept his job as senior advisor to, you guessed it, Mr Johnson (see above) despite massive press coverage and opprobrium.

      Gavin Williamson decided to cancel school examinations at GCSE and 'A'-level, allowing schools with small class sizes to get the grades awarded by teachers but subjecting all other schools to an 'algorithm' which required that the average level of grades attained across the country was the same as last year. Mr Williamson did not seem to realise the this would unfairly benefit fee-paying and Grammar schools with small classes and penalise state schools with large class sizes. There was a tremendous fuss and he backed down. Mr Williamson kept his job as Education Secretary under, yes, him again, Mr Johnson (see above).

      What on Earth makes you think that Baroness Harding will be subjected to anything other than the actual test of employment which is 'are you a friend of Boris or not?' I mean its not like she plays test cricket.

      And R E L A X

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: If only...

        And just today Ms Patel is suspected of having interfered in the policing of an extinction rebellion protest:

        "Police documents previously described to the court contained four entries referring to “the home secretary” calling the chief constable of Hertfordshire Police.

        The first entry was around one and a half hours after the protest started on 4 September, and said that the home secretary and prime minister were aware and “taking an interest”, the court heard.

        Further calls were noted shortly before and shortly after midnight, and police recorded that the home secretary wanted protesters to be removed quickly."

  11. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "The idea that she should now be rewarded by being made head of the NHS..."

    Nobody, however competent in the past, should be rewarded by being given a new appointment. Appointments should be made solely on the basis of expectation of future performance. Obviously though, past performance can be an indicator.

  12. captain veg Silver badge


    According to the Graun she claimed of test and trace that "expectations were set too high”.

    I would say that 38 billion quid buys quite a lot of expectation.


  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dido Harding admits interest in top job at NHS England

    Two potential reasons, she's fucked up her current job so bad that no amount of covering up will keep the lid down and it's going to blow, but not when she's around. Or, the new job pays better. Well... probably both.

  14. Ramis101

    Dido Harding

    That bitch truly is Teflon coated

  15. MJI Silver badge


    Just no.

    Not THAT incompetent.

  16. Long John Silver

    In fine tradition?

    Rising to the level of one's incompetence is an expectation instilled early on in life for such as this 'Baroness'.

    The point being, she and those around her (e.g. Cameron, Johnson, and many others born with well-developed sense of entitlement) are mutually supportive in recognising each other's incompetence and helping them on their upward path. This is to their collective benefit because the nearer to the pinnacle one gets the greater the risk of exposure as a fraud. Why else has Johnson surrounded himself by such a bunch of prats?

    This suitably undistinguished woman who in no sense would be regarded a 'lady' other than by ill-applied 'ennoblement' has qualities defined by their absence ensuring continuing rise in the stagnant pond she inhabits. Everyone knows what is to be found on the surface of stagnant ponds.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: In fine tradition?

      Mr Silver: "The point being, she and those around her (e.g. Cameron, Johnson, and many others born with well-developed sense of entitlement) are mutually supportive in recognising each other's incompetence and helping them on their upward path."

      Whilst I accept the sentiment of your comment, I have to disagree with the statement above. I simply do not believe that Harding, Johnson, Hancock, Williamson et al have any understanding or acceptance of their own or others' incompetence. They may occasionally admit to having royally screwed things up (by accident, not their fault) and possibly offered to resign, but not one of them considers him or her self to be actually not competent to run a major government department.

      Neither does it ever occur to them to consider that their colleagues lack competence. They have been elected or appointed to do something so they do the job as they see fit. Competence has nothing to do with it.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: In fine tradition?

        The Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

      2. Long John Silver

        Re: In fine tradition?

        You make a good point. Perhaps I can salvage the essence of my position with the following?

        They have little to no insight regarding limits of their competence. Putting someone with a sharp mind and sufficient brazenness to pose searching questions among them leads to deep anxiety. Obviously, the solution when feasible is to banish said person to a nether-land of harmless endeavour.

        Better yet is not to be in that position in the first place. Surround oneself with those among whom one feels comfortable. People one knows who never 'think outside the box'. People whose thought processes are as stultified as one's own. Obviously, that is not how they articulate it to themselves. They naturally recognise others of their kind.

        You mentioned Williamson the fireplace salesman. He is the government's extra-special-educational-needs person (the rest being barely above 'special educational needs') required to occupy a slot in conformance with equal opportunities legislation. Williamson's background definitely is not conventional 'Shire Tory'. Thus, he fills the role of nominal plebeian in the Cabinet. Hence 'Gav the Chav' who is humoured by his 'betters'. That said, Hancock and the rest of them, apart from the Chancellor, are no exemplars of human higher cognitive abilities.

        Of course, that's democracy. The weak minded electing into governance the louder mouthed and pushy amongst their number.

  17. tentimes

    Some neck on 'er

    That Dildo has some neck on her - I wouldn't give her a job as a cloak room attendant.

  18. Claverhouse Silver badge

    Opting In or Out

    Oddly, the Opt-Out page[s] has a quite confusing lay-out, leading to doubt as to what one has agreed to, until the very end. Quite unlike what one would expect.

    Went right on to the end of the road though, guided by the explanatory document regarding this venture:


    Just as written:

    We are not going to sell your data

    NHS Digital does not sell data. It does however charge those who want to access its data for the costs of making the data available to them.


    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Opting In or Out

      Borrowing parts of that statement:

      NHS Digital[A sex worker] does not sell data[sex]. It[He/She/Them] does however charge those who want to access its data[sex] for the costs of making the data[sex] available to them.

  19. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    The Queen

    Let's hope Dido Harding doesn't one day consider replacing HM Queen Elizabeth II

  20. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    NHS Vacancies

    Baroness Harding to consider applying to become a Nurse!

  21. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Give me the job!

    I'm clueless, and have no relevant qualifications or experience, but I promise to be not quite as good at making a balls up of it, or wasting so much money.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I understand Russell Haworth is looking for a job too...

    As for Dido - with her unfortunate track record in respect of data security, putting her in a position where she might have any involvement with the already lamentable disregard for individual citizen rights in respect of NHS data, surely one of the most valuable data sets on the planet?

    What better choice could government make, she has demonstrated her ability too lie and evade incisive questioning and an inability to accept any responsibility for anything she was responsible for. If I were a gambling man I'd happily place a large bet that she'll get the job.

    You may wonder how much of the £37bn flowed into Dido's bank account. This was the response to an FOI request to find out "The request was refused by Department of Health and Social Care." I infer that it was so eye-wateringly high that disclosure would result in outrage.

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