A former Sainsbury’s boss once caught singing “We’re in the Money” over a £12billion merger will take up a key role at the beleaguered testing programme.
Mike Coupe, who retired as Chief Executive at Sainsbury’s in May, is poised to become testing director for NHS Test and Trace – prompting alarm from Labour over the lack of NHS experience in the programme’s top jobs.
Baroness Dido Harding, the former TalkTalk boss who runs NHS Test and Trace, has faced sustained criticism over the programme after mass shortages of tests across the country.
Mr Coupe replaces Sarah-Jane Marsh who is returning to her post as chief executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.
Ms Marsh recently issued a heartfelt apology to the thousands of people who were unable to get a test for Covid-19 as infection rates soared.
“All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, its our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point,” she said.
“We are doing all we can to expand quickly.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson thanked her for her work and said Mr Coupe would bring “35 years of experience in large scale supply chains, logistics and digital transformation”.
But Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders blasted the appointment and accused ministers of continuing to go for “unproven private sector solutions”.
He said: “It is worrying that there will be even less NHS experience in test and trace after this change at the top.
“The fundamental mistake the Government made with test and trace was to bypass existing NHS structures and go for unproven private sector solutions.
“It is therefore hard to see how this change is going to improve on the dire performance we have seen so far.”
And Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth tweeted: “How about putting those trained in actual infectious disease control in charge of Test and Trace?”
Mr Coupe was forced to apologise in 2018 after singing Broadway hit “We’re In The Money” in between media interviews about a massive merger with supermarket giant Asda.
He was caught on camera singing: “We’re in the money, the sky is sunny, let’s lend it, spent it, send it rolling along.”
He later admitted it was “an unfortunate choice of song” and apologised to anyone offended.
The merger was eventually blocked by the competition watchdog on the grounds it would result in higher prices for shoppers and damage competition.
Mr Coupe, who was successful at takeovers of Argos and Habitat during his time at Sainsbury’s, was paid £3.1 million in his final year at the supermarket.
It is understood he will be in the Test and Trace role until Christmas.