• Leaders appointed to oversee “test” and “trace” elements of new programme
  • Sarah-Jane Marsh will support chair Baroness Dido Harding

Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Foundation Trust chief executive Sarah-Jane Marsh will lead the government’s ‘test and trace’ programme along with a council boss, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.

Ms Marsh will lead the “test” aspect of the programme under NHS Improvement chair Baroness Dido Harding. Leeds Council chief executive Tom Riordan has been appointed to lead the “trace” aspect.

Ms Marsh was initially nominated to help with NHS staff testing efforts in late March, but her role has expanded as government has desperately sought to increase testing capacity and access.

Prime minister Boris Johnson last week said the government wanted to have capacity to perform 200,000 tests per day by the end of May.

Government previously set a target of 100,000 by the end of April, which it only met if tests which are posted out, rather than actually completed, are counted. There is ongoing concern in the health and care system about the progress and running of the programme.

The UK Statistics Authority wrote to health secretary Matt Hancock on Monday with concerns over how testing targets are being “defined, measured and reported.”

The DHSC said Ms Marsh and Mr Riordan would work closely with national testing coordinator Professor John Newton, who is part of Public Health England and whose role is also being expanded, according to a spress statement.

In addition to providing clinical and scientific guidance, Professor Newton will support Baroness Harding to make sure the “test” and “trace” work is coordinated.

Ms Marsh joined Birmingham Children’s Hospital in 2009 and oversaw its merger with Birmingham Women’s Hospital in 2017. The merged trust received a “good” rating at its latest CQC inspection in 2019, with the Children’s Hospital retaining its “outstanding” status.

Baroness Harding said: ”Expanding the test and trace team to bring in more experts will ensure we can use the very best of our tech, research and people power to help keep coronavirus at bay across the country.”