Professor Wilkins has significant experience working in the public sector. Through her executive, non-executive and academic experience she has a deep knowledge of local government, health and care and the wider public sector landscape.
Her local government experience includes chief executive and returning officer at a district borough council, leading a significant programme of corporate and service delivery improvement. It also includes chief executive and returning officer at a metropolitan borough council. For part of the time in this role Professor Wilkins also undertook the role of the accountable officer at the NHS clinical commissioning group, working on the integration of health and social care, within a wider programme of reform of public services. As the local authority was part of the city region combined authority she undertook a range of responsibilities at this level. These included chairing the population health programme for the health and care partnership, co-chairing the city region cancer board and leading the complex dependency programme
Professor Wilkins has worked as a senior civil servant at Number 10, Downing Street and during the COVID-19 pandemic worked on secondment from local government as Director of Contain, NHS Test & Trace. In both roles she worked with national organisations including the Local Government Association, Association of Directors of Public Health, and Society of Local Authority Chief Executives.
Her strong commitment to social justice and tackling inequalities together with her experience working on a wide range of systemic challenges informs, and in turn is informed by, academic interests that include systems thinking, leading across boundaries, and the relationship between trust, distrust and control in organisations. Her interests also include the contribution to local economies and thriving communities that can be made by anchor institutions. She is Chair of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES). She is a Trustee of the Kings Fund, a member of the NHS Assembly as well as secretary of her local community association.
In June 2016 she was awarded an OBE for her services to local government and public service reform.