Ex-Sainsbury’s boss takes key Test and Trace job

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Former Sainsbury’s supermarket chief executive Mike Coupe is to take over as director of Covid-19 testing at England’s Test and Trace agency.

He brings huge experience in running supply chains and logistics, said the Department for Health and Social Care.

But Labour shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said it would make more sense to put “those trained in actual infectious disease control in charge”.

Mr Coupe, who left Sainsbury’s in May, replaces Sarah-Jane Marsh.

Earlier this month she issued a “heartfelt” apology for problems with the coronavirus testing system. She blamed delays in laboratory processing.

At Test and Trace, Mr Coupe will be joining other former retail executives. The head of the service, Dido Harding, worked at Tesco and Sainsbury’s before spending seven years as boss of TalkTalk.

A former head of HR at Sainsbury’s is at test and trace, as is a former digital director of Waitrose.

In a tweet about Mr Coupe’s appointment, first reported in the Health Service Journal, Mr Ashworth said: “How about putting those trained in actual infectious disease control in charge of Test & Trace?

“Local public health teams should be leading contact tracing.”

Mr Coupe has more than 35 years experience in the retail sector, and led Sainsbury’s home delivery expansion and drive for online sales.

However, he is also remembered for a failed attempt to take over rival Asda after the deal was blocked by the competition. Before that there was a notable corporate gaffe.

When the proposed Asda takeover was announced in May 2018 he was caught on camera singing “We’re in the Money”. He apologised, saying he had been trying to compose himself before a television interview.

Mr Coupe will work with Ms Marsh in a hand-over role for about a month, after which she will return to her job as head of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

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