'Challenge of a lifetime': DHSC seeks leader for Joint Biosecurity Centre

JBC could get its third director general since being set up last year
Photo: GOV.UK

The Department of Health and Social Care is seeking a director general to take on the “challenge of a lifetime” leading the work of the Joint Biosecurity Centre once it is absorbed into the new UK Health Security Agency.

DHSC is offering up to £130,000 to a senior leader with a “track record of delivering complex programmes of data-driven transformation” who will lead the analytical, surveillance and data functions played by the JBC.

The centre, which was set up last year as part of the government’s response to Covid-19, analyses a range of data to determine coronavirus response and to set the alert levels that inform the government’s regulatory response, including lockdown measures.

It provides analysis of data from NHS Test and Trace, of which it is part, as well as mobile data tracking people’s movements to identify coronavirus hotspots, and has set up a virtual statistical-modelling and machine-learning lab with the Royal Statistical Society and The Alan Turing Institute.

Clare Gardiner, director of national resilience and strategy at the National Cyber Security Centre, has been seconded to the DG role since last June. She took over from Office for Security and Counter Terrorism director general Tom Hurd, who led the work to set up the JBC at the beginning of the pandemic.

The successful candidate will become part of the leadership team at UKHSA, which was previously known as the National Institute for Health Protection, and which will launch next month. The job ad comes after DHSC announced deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries would become chief executive of the new health body, replacing interim executive chair Baroness Dido Harding.

As part of UKHSA, the JBC will “put the full power of health and non-health data in the hands of those who need it by enabling efficient, innovative and safe sharing across the public health ecosystem”, according to the candidate pack for the role.

It will also “help realise an ambitious programme of transformation to deliver scalable, sustainable IT platforms for data operations and analytics, including supporting rapid adoption of new analytical techniques”.

And it will bring together best practice and knowledge from the public, private and academic sectors.

The successful candidate will be a “creative thinker and influential collaborator” with impressive intellect and political acumen, according to the job pack.

“You will take a collaborative approach to leadership and be innovative and entrepreneurial, seeking out and bringing fresh perspectives to the role and organisation,” it adds.

The job also calls for someone who can “candour and make finely balanced judgements about risk in order to provide the best possible advice” to ministers and other officials, it says.

“As one of the key members of the UKHSA’s collective leadership team, you will be right at the heart of our ambitious agenda to help the government and the country get back to a more normal way of life beyond Covid-19 and establish itself for the long term to protect us from other known, and as yet unknown, threats,” the job advert says.

While the centre’s initial focus will be on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, in future it will work to combat a range of health threats.

The director general job is “one of the most exciting analytical leadership roles in the country”, according to the job ad, which goes on: “If you are up for the challenge of a lifetime, are experienced in dealing with data and analytics, and are a strong people leader with the confidence and credibility to interact with a range of stakeholders, including the chief medical officer, ministers and key specialist groups such as SAGE, then we look forward to hearing from you.”

Replacement sought for Jenny Harries

DHSC is also advertising for an interim deputy medical officer to take over from Harries, following her appointment to the UKHSA.

The temporary posting comes with a salary of between £135,000 and £145,000 a year, and will last for between nine and 15 months.

The successful candidate will deputise for England's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and will advise him and the department's policy officials on the policy implications of research and evidence on health improvement.

"The role will most likely be dominated by the Covid-19 response but there will be an expectation to support DHSC in wider health improvement policy areas too," the job advert says.

Applicants must be comfortable working in a "significant and challenging national role"; command the respect of ministers and other stakeholders; and be capable of applying excellent strategic thinking skills across a complex portfolio with an "outstanding eye for detail", the ad says.

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