The School was delighted to welcome Baroness Dido Harding for a virtual question and answer session on the evening of Thursday 10 March.
Baroness Harding, best known as the chairwoman of NHS Improvement and for her running of the controversial Test and Trace programme, was interviewed by Six One (Year 12) student Holly, before questions were opened to an audience of students, staff, parents and visiting schools.
The session gave students the opportunity to hear from a woman with a considerable depth of experience and hugely varied background, spanning fields such as retail and telecommunications as well as politics.
During the session, Baroness Harding acknowledged that her background in consumer services had an impact on her view of the NHS. When asked about what positives the NHS could take from the pandemic, she said: “In any consumer service, if you treat your people well, they will treat their customers well. And I think the NHS learnt that in the pandemic, much more than it had ever done before.”
Other questions ranged from the Baroness’s role as Chair of the Remuneration Committee of the Bank of England to the merits of the House of Lords. Nevertheless, discussions inevitably circled back to the pandemic and Baroness Harding’s role in the nation’s response.
Asked for her evaluation of the Test and Trace programme, Baroness Harding defended her work, saying: “Did it stop the need for lockdown? Did it take us out of the pandemic? It didn’t do that. But the reality is that no testing and tracing system anywhere in the world achieved that either.
“Did it save lots of lives? Was it value for money in saving those lives? And how did it compare against other countries’ testing and tracing systems? Actually, it did really quite well on those.
“Could it have done more? Yes of course it could. But was it ever going to be the sort of magic silver bullet that I think the whole country wanted it to be when it launched? No.”
Elsewhere, when asked whether she thought the NHS would ever be privatised, the Baroness made an impassioned case for our health service. She said: “It is such a core part of who we are as a country to have a free at the point of need, taxpayer-funded health system. I think it’s something we should be proud of as a country.”