Case study: NHS test and trace

NHS test and trace

Jes Ladva, Head of our Government Practice, discusses his recent set of appointments for the NHS test and trace programme

The issue

In order to guide, steer and question the UK’s Covid-19 response both on a regional level as well as feed into the national outbreak planning, the government decided to appoint specialist localised leadership teams of officials.

For each of the nine designated regions of England, there needed to be a central point of contact, a ‘regional convenor’, as well as ‘senior coordinators’ to work alongside the convenor and health protection specialists. The teams had to be mobilised quickly for immediate action on the pandemic response, many roles were filled internally with executives seconded from their government roles, however, there remained several key vacancies that needed to be filled externally. 

The solution

There was a critically tight deadline for the appointments, presenting the need for an approach that demanded an established network to draw upon given the stringent role requirements: each position needed to be filled with proven accomplished talent in the government space. Specifically, for the regional convenors, the candidates needed to be high quality government leaders at a time where government leaders were otherwise engaged. Above all, the challenge demanded immediately available candidates.

This was a highly complex and sensitive project, requiring comprehensive knowledge of the market, strong network connections and a sound understanding of the required skillsets to fulfil the role descriptions and scope of the assignments. Tom Riordan CBE, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council who had been emergency drafted to lead the NHS Test and Trace national roll-out, commented on the work at hand, saying it was “hard to find a match, especially in the time frame”.

The candidates

With the help of my team, Siobhan Farlow and the Odgers Interim Government Practice, we were able to generate a strong list of candidates in a very short timescale.  

From this, the assessment process resulted in 12 high profile appointments: six interim regional convenors, five senior coordinators and one health protection specialist. Tom reflected on this recruitment process, saying: “Jes immediately understood the brief, even though it was very developmental and evolving. He generated a great list of candidates in a very short timescale for us to judge and check out with stakeholders. We made excellent appointments for all the regions with conveners that the bulk of chief executives were content with – no easy feat!”

As a result of the outstanding services of Odgers Interim’s referencing team, we were able to complete the referencing process and on-board the candidates with pace. Tom also gave feedback on the vetting  we carried out saying: “Jes sorted all the practicalities of onboarding, which helped alleviate pressure on DHSC HR staff and provided a better quality experience for the candidates.”

The outcome

The teams are functioning remotely yet covering all regions of the country. They are working proactively and reactively on the outbreaks happening across the country, identifying and resolving complex and sensitive issues at pace and providing a critical link between central and local government. A pertinent example has been in Leicester’s recent lockdown, where our convenor briefed Health Secretary Matt Hancock, contributing to the lockdown of the city the very next day.

The initial proposal was for three-month contracts, but we are now close to a review and this is an example where we would prefer no extension, for all our sakes. However, with future prevention and lessons learned we expect there will be further work needed on this vitally important national test and trace programme.

Commenting on the assignments and the recruitment process, Gill Steward, Department of Health and Social Care, said:

"In a very short time period Jes Ladva and the Odgers team were able to source an impressive short list of candidates for each region many of which had strong local connections and established networks.

Having such a senior experienced and connected team in place so quickly meant that the teams in each Region were able to support their local authorities to produce their Local outbreak Management Plan, plan and prevent and effectively manage outbreaks. A remarkable achievement!

Throughout the process Jes who led the Odgers team worked tirelessly to identify candidates and support the recruitment process. He was outstanding and a pleasure to work with.”

For more information please contact Jes Ladva.


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