With 2019 down to its final days, it’s time to take a look back at HSJ’s most read technology stories of the year. 

‘All-singing and all-dancing’ NHS App scrapped

NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould announced in May that he would probably not be adding “many more” features to the NHS App, despite the long-term plan describing the app as the NHS’ future digital “front door”. In a blog post, Mr Gould said: “I don’t want us to make the NHS App all-singing and all-dancing. In fact, I’m not sure I want to add many more features than it already has.”

Exclusive: Hancock’s ‘NHSX’ power grab for NHS England work

HSJ revealed in January Matt Hancock’s plans to launch NHSX, a digital unit in the government. The move would represent a major shake-up to IT in the NHS and give Mr Hancock more direct oversight of the NHS’ digital strategy. 

NHS England digital chief moves to digital GP company

Also in January, HSJ revealed NHS England’s first chief digital officer Juliet Bauer was leaving to work for digital GP company Livi. Ms Bauer’s work at the company would focus on NHS partnerships. At the time Ms Bauer’s departure was announced, Livi — or Kry as it is known as in its native Sweden — held several contracts in the NHS to provide video GP consultations.

‘Couch to 5k’ among 10 apps pulled from NHS app library

In July, it was revealed popular fitness app ‘Couch to 5k’ was among those dropped from the NHS’ digital library, the reason given that it failed to provide information for a new general data protection regulation assessment. All 70 of the library’s apps were reviewed after the NHS published updated General Data Protection Regulation guidance to providers in June 2018.

Warning over NHS 111 role in teen’s death

HSJ reported in August that a coroner had warned there could be further deaths if action was not taken to improve NHS Pathways, the software used to triage all NHS 111 calls and many NHS 999 calls. The warnings came following the death of 17-year-old Alexander Davidson, who died in February 2018 after developing sepsis. The inquest discovered Alexander had “struggled to comprehend” the medical terminology used during conversations with 111 call handlers. 

Dalton appointed automation tsar

It was revealed in July that former NHS Improvement chief executive Ian Dalton had found a new job — heading a government taskforce charged with automating public services. He said the benefits of automation technology “can have a huge impact on people’s lives — and I want to be at the forefront of this ground-breaking technology”.

NHS living in the ‘dark ages’, says digital chief

Speaking at the NHS Expo conference in September, national chief clinical information officer Simon Eccles said the NHS had got its “attitude to tech wrong” and it was still “in the dark ages”. He added that, while industries such as agriculture and shipping had made “phenomenal leaps” towards digitisation, in the NHS, staff were still “accepting” 30-minute logins to “deeply outated” computer systems.

Leak reveals NHSX’s scope and structure

HSJ revealed in August the details of a leaked document which showed the structure of NHSX for the very first time. This included an “NHSX skunkworks” unit for special projects, a new artificial intelligence policy team, a commercial department with a planned centre of expertise, and a social care technology team.

Director leaves NHSX four months after unit created

In November, it was revealed director of digital development Sam Shah had left recently formed NHSX at the end of October. Dr Shah left after his contract ended and NHSX did not provide any more information on Dr Shah’s departure, including whether he was given the option of renewing his contract. Dr Shah had previously been director of digital development for NHS England.

Major trust opens talks with Babylon, claiming GPs unable to stem demand

HSJ reported in May that University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust was in talks with digital healthcare company Babylon to help take the pressure off of its strained hospitals. The trust was hoping to use the company’s tech for video outpatients and its digital triage chatbot for the emergency department. News of the talks broke just months after Babylon’s GP service for the NHS, GP at Hand, received the green light to expand into Birmingham, despite objections from local GPs and the Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group.