Mike Coupe

Coupe will reportedly serve in the role of testing director until Christmas

Former Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe has landed a role at NHS Test and Trace, according to Health Service Journal.

In an internal email seen by HSJ, Dido Harding, interim executive chair of the government’s coronavirus contact tracing agency, informed staff of Coupe’s arrival. He would “bring a wealth of experience in large-scale supply chains, logistics and digital transformation”, she said.

It is reported he will serve in the role of testing director until Christmas.

The agency’s leadership now includes a glut of grocery experience. Harding has a history in supermarkets, as a former executive at Tesco, and convenience director at Sainsbury’s. The agency’s chief people officer Gareth Williams is a former head of HR at Sainsbury’s.

Earlier this month, The Grocer reported departing Waitrose digital director Ben Stimson was also joining the agency. Stimson is leaving the supermarket after a decade this week, saying his new role as chief customer officer was an “incredibly important role and challenge”.

Coupe announced his retirement from Sainsbury’s in January after six years in the role and left the company in May.

Reacting to Coupe’s appointment, Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders MP expressed concern at the lack of NHS talent at the top of the agency.

Four of the 15 people on NHS Test and Trace’s executive committee now come from the private sector.

“The fundamental mistake the government made with test and trace was to bypass existing NHS structures and go for unproven private sector solutions,” said Madders. “It is therefore hard to see how this change is going to improve on the dire performance we have seen so far.”