Dido Harding has pledged to end the reliance on foreign doctors and nurses if she becomes the next head of the NHS.
Baroness Harding of Winscome – the former head of the much-maligned Test and Trace service – formally applied to succeed Sir Simon Stevens atop the health service last week.
If successful, the Tory peer will become chief executive of Europe’s biggest employer, with a budget of more than £150 billion and a waiting list of anxious patients awaiting treatment and surgery which stands at around five million.
Harding has charted NHS Improvement since 2017 and is close to ministers – but her leadership of the government’s testing programme has been harshly criticised as ineffective and wasteful, The Sunday Times reported.
She reportedly plans to challenge the “prevailing orthodoxy” in government that it is better to import medical professionals from overseas. According to the House of Commons Library, 170,000 out of 1.3 million NHS staff say their nationality is not British – close to 14 per cent of the workforce.
The newspaper reported that Harding will claim to be the ultimate “insider-outsider” at the NHS – having spent decades in the private sector, including seven years as chief executive of TalkTalk.
NHS England announced in April that Sir Simon was to stand down “as planned” at the end of July.
According to the NHS England annual report for 2019/20, the chief executive salary was between £195,000 and £200,000.
The report stated that Sir Simon had, during that year, voluntarily taken a £20,000 per annum pay cut for the sixth year in a row.
The other frontrunner for the role is Amanda Pritchard – the chief operating officer of NHS England, and Stevens’s de facto deputy.
Meanwhile, more than 700,000 Covid-19 jabs were booked on the day the NHS vaccination programme was opened up to people aged 18 to 20.
People in England made 721,469 appointments through the national booking service on Friday, more than 30,000 an hour or more than eight every second.
NHS England said this does not include appointments made through local GP-led vaccination services, or people getting jabbed at walk-in centres.
Everyone aged 18 and over is being urged to arrange a jab if they have not yet had one, as the health service enters the final push to protect the country against the virus.
Public Health England said there has been a 79 per cent rise in one week in cases of the Delta variant, first identified in India, with the increase being driven by younger age groups.
On Saturday, thousands of jabs were administered after stadiums and football grounds in London were transformed into mass vaccination centres.
Giant jab clinics were set up at the Olympic Stadium, Stamford Bridge, Tottenham Hotspur FC, Charlton Athletic FC, Selhurst Park and Crystal Palace Athletics Centre.
There were also pop up clinics at universities, such as in York and Canterbury.