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23.01.19

Outgoing NHS digital chief wrote ‘puff piece’ for future employer in ‘jaw-droppingly inappropriate’ behaviour

NHS England’s outgoing chief digital officer has been criticised for “jaw-droppingly inappropriate” behaviour after she announced her departure for a health technology start-up she had praised in a “puff piece” article without disclosing she was joining its payroll.

Juliet Bauer is currently serving out her notice period after announcing she was departing from NHS England last week, and faced criticism for leaving the NHS to join a health tech firm— days after the long-term plan called for a major NHS expansion in the sector.

Bauer, one of the top officials who worked on the NHS Long-Term Plan, is accused of a conflict of interest after she wrote a high-profile article in The Times newspaper praising Kry, a video appointment app, without disclosing she had been hired by the company.

In the article last week, and under her NHS title, Bauer wrote that data provided by “Europe’s biggest video GP consultation provider” showed “high levels of patient and GP satisfaction.”

She said that from April she would taking up a new job at “one of the largest and most trusted digital healthcare providers in Europe,” but did not specify that she would be joining Kry, leading to NHS England distancing themselves from the article.

Speaking to the Financial Times (FT), Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee (PAC), labelled the article a “puff piece advert for the new employer,” and said she was “shocked at the lack of judgement.”

“This revolving door of senior officials going into businesses they have worked with has long been an issue but this is brazen,” Hillier added, arguing that the move was “jaw-droppingly inappropriate.”

As reported in the FT, the chief clinical information officer for health and care Simon Eccles defended his former colleague and said she was a “fantastic” during her time at the NHS, but acknowledged that the article had been inappropriate.

He said: “I think muddling that (view) with any individual commercial provider, which that piece did, was a mistake.

“There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I now work for a company who’s trying to do this and I think that this company will do great things’ once you’ve left us, but that’s not what happened.”

Bauer announced her departure days after the long-term plan she helped to develop was published, but Eccles emphasised that she could not have had any undue influence over the tech-focused NHS Long-Term Plan.

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