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Exclusive: NHS’s outgoing digital chief wrote controversial Times article without health service’s approval

Juliet Bauer, the outgoing chief digital officer of NHS England, failed to gain approval from the health service before using a controversial article in The Times to praise her new employer.

Bauer came under fire on social media last week for talking up Livi – a video appointments app – without declaring that she was set to start working for the company in April.

In an article published on The Times’ website, Bauer wrote: “Data from Sweden provided by Livi, Europe’s biggest video GP consultation provider, shows higher levels of patient and GP satisfaction while at the same time delivering higher patient safety and medical quality as well as crucial improvements in lowering prescription of antibiotics.”

The article drew the ire of some medical professionals on Twitter. One user, who claims to be an NHS consultant, said they were “truly disgusted” by the piece. “Despite specifically promoting Livi, the article/advertorial doesn’t mention the fact that the author, Juliet Bauer, [is going to work for] them!”

A former GP, who spoke to NS Tech on the condition of anonymity, criticised the article for claiming that Livi offers “higher patient safety and medical quality” without pointing to published research backing up the claim. “My big issue is not so much the move (‘twas ever thus) but the piece in the article that suggests video consults are safer and more effective than face2face,” he said. “This may just be marketing spiel.”

A footnote on the article declared that Bauer “will be working for a video GP consultation provider” from April, but not that it was the same provider she praised in the article.

After NS Tech contacted NHS England about the matter on Monday (21 January), a spokesperson confirmed that it had decided to ask for the piece to be removed. “The article had been written without the organisation’s approval,” the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson for The Times said: “We have amended the credit to clarify that Juliet Bauer will be working for Livi. The approvals process is a matter for the relevant parties to manage.”

Bauer, who is well regarded within the industry and previously worked at The Times, is still working for the NHS but has stepped down as its chief digital officer. She told NS Tech: “After two and a half years working at NHSE to improve the health and experience of patients using digital, I have decided to move to a product role at a global digital health organisation.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to work at NHS England and I’d like to wish the teams all the best in moving this vital agenda forward.”

Bauer is due to be replaced by Tara Donnelly, who is the chief executive at the Health Innovation Network. “Looking forward to joining the team at NHS England working on digital following amazing work by Juliet & her team,” said Donnelly in a tweet.

Livi has not responded to a request for comment.