back to article NHS loses massive Microsoft licensing rebate

Software licensing in the National Health Service is about to get a lot more complicated, and a lot more expensive. Back in 2004 the Office of Government Commerce signed a massive deal with Microsoft to provide all desktop software within the NHS. This followed some very high-level lobbying from both Bill Gates and Steve …


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  1. Anonymous John

    Open Office.



    1. Dale Richards

      Well shit the bed...

      Who'd have known the only software you need to run a national health service is a basic office suite?

      1. Anonymous John

        A nurse will be along in a day or two to change the sheets.

        I'm sure there are loads of PCs running Office in the NHS. Enough for a switch to Open Office to result in a useful saving.

    2. Rob Beard
      Gates Horns


      Not working in the NHS I'm guessing here... I'd be pretty sure that it's not as easy as switching to OpenOffice. I bet there is a fair whack of software which runs on Windows but totally unrelated to MS Office, and then maybe some other software which is tied into MS Office.

      I do wonder though if they should have made the switch, maybe it's about time to seriously consider making the switch so they aren't tied into Microsoft solutions (which could well give Microsoft the upper hand to charge what they want in future).

      I wouldn't be surprised though if they come up with a new agreement, maybe Microsoft will 'discount' the software my a couple of million just to lock the NHS in for another few years.


  2. lglethal Silver badge

    Who pulled the plug?

    Its not quite clear in the article who actually pulled the plug on the deal? Did Microsoft pull out of the deal or was this an action on the part of the NHS?

    The comment from the Microsoft spokesman seems to hint that Microsoft pulled the plug due to the money they were losing, but the NHS spokesman seems to be implying that the decision was there's in order to pass the decision back to the local Trusts.

    Can you clarify this for us John? Or are both sides keeping quiet on the specifics?

    1. Jerome 0

      Who'll blink first?

      Seems like a reasonable assumption that MS were sick of getting so little cash and tried to up the price somewhat, and the NHS thought the new price was too steep. Negotiations ensued, but the two sides couldn't reach a figure they both agreed on. Now they're both waiting it out and hoping the other side blinks first.

  3. Number6

    Ending in Tears

    Isn't this what we were saying at the time, that it was just a means to draw the NHS in to make it ever harder for them to move to an alternative solution? Time to bite the bullet, Mr Lansley, and ditch MS for a cheaper alternative. Yes, it will hurt short-term, but the savings will come over the following years.

    Plus we'd see less headlines about various bits of the NHS being brought down by a virus or leaking data via a compromised machine (can't do much about the CD on the train though).

    1. Craig (well, I was until The Reg changed it to Craig 16)

      Yes, you can

      "(can't do much about the CD on the train though)."

      Yes, you can. Repeated and brutal beatings for offenders until anyone given a cd full of data breaks down in tears at the potential consequences.

      Also, a law change that gives people who have had their data lost the opportunity to give the loser a free punt to the nuts (or female equivalent)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      transition costs?

      "Yes, it will hurt short-term, but the savings will come over the following years"

      We don't have spare cash in the system at the moment. And it won't be cheap to make the transition.

      Swap a haulage company from MS to open source. Worst that happens is some loads don't get delivered. Move a GP surgery to open source without a cast-iron plan and ......

    3. Anonymous Coward

      What a waste

      This is insane. I have worked in the NHS for 10 years. The only MS software we ever use is Word and Powerpoint. All diagnostic imaging and test results are accessed via a web browser interface, or by logging into a remote UNIX system with a terminal emulator.

      On top of that, the computers we have to use are fitted with the bare minimum RAM, so even opening a browser window causes frantic HD chugging and a 3 minute wait.

      I pray for the day we can all move to Ubuntu & Open Office, I really do.

      1. Captain Save-a-ho

        Re: What a waste

        "The only MS software we ever use is Word and Powerpoint."

        Unless your department is using Macs, I'll suggest there's more MS software under the hood...

      2. Displacement Activity


        ...MS Exchange. Remember the fiasco over A huge amount of money spent on a customised web mail solution, and finally all thrown away when Exchange was bought in instead.

        NHS mail is so crap that I use it as little as possible, and instead give people an off-NHS address. I use Squirrelmail/sendmail/Centos for my own webmail. Yes, it's very amateurish, but I think I prefer it to the vastly over-bloated NHS mail.

      3. elderlybloke

        What a wast-Mk2

        AC,@15 July 2010 12.42 GMT,

        Do you still know any Bean Counters in the NHS?

        If so , advise them on Linux/Ubuntu , and that millions can be saved .

        They are good at counting beans but the poor sods are obviously not clued up about computers.

        It will take some time to get them to understand about Open Source and freedom to innovate (really innovate and not copy).

  4. Anonymous Coward


    "The bottom line is that the NHS uses £270m of Microsoft software and pays less than £65m per year for it."

    PR-speak for "The NHS is paying nearly the full retail price for Microsoft software spread over software lifecycles but managed to sell it to the last government as a good deal, now they're wanting the same level of deals we give to large commercial companies and we're refusing to play ball."

    Probably get a better deal by going down PC World.

    AC because I think my paymasters would be a bit annoyed at that.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    WTF? Wasnt' the whole point moving forward that the NHS would buy as a single large unit so to cut costs.

  6. NB

    rage much?

    And this is why the NHS should have booted MS off its desktops years ago. They could have saved millions and millions of £ by switching to linux and investing in good in house support teams. Typical management fail: "oh no we're unfamiliar with that ZOMGWTFBBQ!!!, We'll just continue to waste public money of substandard software". Same reason that most of the NHS' computers are still running IE6, total lack of leadership and an unwillingness to do what is right.

    1. Anthony

      Seriously why do you guys...

      ... continue to post when you can't even understand that enterpise desktops are more than office and windows. Sure it may be possible to migrate everything, but stop pretending it would be either cheap or easy (or all open source).

      I'm sorry sir, I'd love to look at your CT scan, but unfortunately a penguin replaced my computer and now I can't view them anymore ...

  7. Cameron Colley

    Is anyone surprised?

    Thanks to the gullibility of some tosser in NHS management we'll all be paying Microsoft a lot more money over the next few years.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is anyone surprised?

      The smart move is to actually take control of your own infrastructure, not to let some vendor dictate what you use and how much tax they will be extracting from you for the privilege of using it, all while you don't have any option of walking away from their little "deal".

      The "tossers" (and not just in the public sector - there are big corporate competitors of Microsoft who actually rely on Microsoft to run their infrastructure, believe it or not) are the ones who fail to do their job of actually planning, administering and *controlling* the infrastructure that keeps critical assets of society running.

      Microsoft isn't a department in the UK public sector. It shouldn't be collecting what is effectively a tax from UK citizens and calling the shots over UK infrastructure. That's what you have when some corrupt civil servants delegate all their responsibilities to Microsoft (while presumably getting paid a fat salary, even before any kickbacks are added on).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And in reality...

    "The bottom line is that the NHS uses £270m of Microsoft software and pays less than £65m per year for it. For the next three years the cost would have risen to £85m as the NHS deploys more and more technology while the National Programme rolls out."

    Or taken out of this spin...

    The NHS uses £270m of (overpriced) Microsoft software and has paid £65m per year for it for the last 6 years. The bean counters have just figured out the maths in this and would like to stop paying.

  9. Scary

    MS dealers innit

    Ah, the old get 'em hooked then jack up the price business model...

  10. JDX Gold badge

    Here come the OS zealots...

    I'm sure it'll be a fair and objective discussion.

    However: Java Desktop.... LOL

    1. Rob Beard

      Java Desktop

      Yes, it's a product formally from Sun, now from Oracle. I believe it used to be GNU/Linux based but it's now based on Oracle. I believe it incorporates a Gnome desktop (configured to work pretty much like Windows), StarOffice, Mozilla Firefox, Evolution (which looks similar to Outlook), and Java.


  11. yossarianuk

    Move to opensource will save money in the long run

    The best (and probably only good) thing about the new government is that they are seriously considering a move top Linux/opensource.

    Yes you will need retraining, yes software will need to be re-written . - all possible and will save OUR money in the long run - and will stop funding a hideous American company with MY tax dollars ...

    The main issue with an Monopoly is vendor lock in ......... If they didn't have a monopoly in the first place the NHS may have been more sensible,,

    Do the NHS need the latest version of Microsoft desktop software ??? (are they playing games ?)

    One final thing is that a move to Linux may save lives due to the lack of downtime in systems and will stop hospitals being grounded by some windows virus (aids)


    1. Jock in a Frock

      @ Yossarianuk

      Quote - "and will stop funding a hideous American company with MY tax dollars ."

      Can anyone see the irony? Your tax dollars?

    2. OSC
      Thumb Up

      You may also recall the wonderful spokeslogic

      alleging no clinical disruption caused by the computing disruption, leaving hanging the question as to why they were using computers in the first place.

      As door stops to get the stretchers through quicker?

  12. Steve Evans 1

    I know what

    my employer would say if I showed "reluctance to move to less familiar systems". There are a lot of people on the unemployment register who would love to use open source software in the NHS office.

  13. Gaius
    Gates Horns

    Since when...

    ... has the NHS cared about saving taxpayer's money?

  14. blackworx


    I really wish the NHS was in a position to be able to actually pull the plug on these fuckers, see how quickly they come back to the table.

    1. Captain Save-a-ho

      Re: Hmmmm

      Did you even read the article?

      1. blackworx

        Re: Hmmmm

        Yes I did. Your point?

        1. Hans 1


          I think Captain Save-a-ho was referring to the sentence:

          "Our source said the only alternative - a move to open source software - was unlikely to overcome reluctance from staff to move to less familiar systems."

          Which part of this sentence do you not understand?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can see why

    On one hand you have the savings of a massive discount covering the whole of the NHS (or just NHS England and Wales?)

    However that would in effect be a block on the subdivisions within the NHS investigating other software "solutions" which could be more cost effective. At least this way there is a chance of some competition between suppliers reducing costs.

    perhaps the costs of MS licensing within the NHS will increase as a PCT or Hospital trust or the DoH doesn't get quite the same discounting but I can't see the licencing coming down to per-GP practice.

  16. OSC

    reluctant staff?

    I'd rather blame the anonymous spokesperson - however, a report published 7 years ago compared the usability of SUSE 8.2 (on a day that 11.3 is due to be released), with XP, news item here

    demonstrating near equivalence. The actual report is still available from the link

    So, perhaps a better question to ask spokesperson/reluctant staff, which treatment or drug do you want to sacrifice in order to keep using Microsoft?

    And will you be the one prepared to explain your decision to your client group/patient/stakeholder whichever word works for you and your breakout group?

    1. pan2008

      worked for the nhs

      I’ve worked for the NHS for a year and also know someone high up who was in the negotiations. The deal doesn’t just include office, includes things like (or substantial savings) licenses for Sharepoint, SQL Server, Visual Studio, VB etc and all the Windows boxes they’ve got. Also with this deal you get office just for £9 if you are an employee for home use.

      If you think that the biggest employer in Britain doesn’t get a good deal for 60m a year with 1.5m or so employees you are wrong. I saw what happened when they were using a cheap Web version for email (the biggest sh*te ever used, had to copy my email while typing it in case I lost it) and thanks god they moved to Web Outlook or Outlook. NHS should stick with the current version of Office if necessary, why move? What they need is to re-negotiate the server software and that may worth less than 60m if they know what they are talking about.

  17. Mountford D

    Congratulations NHS

    You have just been shafted by Microsoft. Welcome to the fantastic experience as had by most.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Drug dealers

    Street dealers give the first hit for free, then once your hooked start to charge.

    The best dealers charge for the first hit then put the price up once you can't stop.

    Remind you of anything?

  19. alain williams Silver badge

    Oh! The joy of lock in

    This is a superb illustration of why you adopt multi platform, well documented/specificfied solutions; use standard file formats and protocols of which there are several implementations. When your current provider hikes the price you can threaten to walk - and they know that you can do it.

    What a surprise that MS wants more money; they priced low to get the NHS enmeshed and raise the price when the know that they cannot move away quickly.

    This is more about Open Standards than Open Source -- although Open Source fits the bill admirably.

  20. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Time to move on?

    While there may be some critical Windows-only software that is a problem, most of the desktop and office stuff need not be MS at al;. As they no doubt have lots of XP licenses, why not LINUX for most and run a VM for a few?

    And less of the brought-down-by-virus headlines as well.

    Of course its a pain to change, a major one, but we are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds here. And going from XP to 7 is also a pain and re-training exercise for most non-el-reg readers.

    Anyone fancy forming a company to offer that change-over assistance?

    1. Displacement Activity

      ...but not yet

      It's not "some" Windows-only software that's the problem. Look around a GP surgery, and you'll see almost no-one using office software. A couple of secretaries writing letters, and that's it.

      Apart from email. Fixable, but there's a lot of time invested in learning Outlook. is also Exchange-based, and would have to be essentially trashed. Not a major problem; it's not fantastically useful anyway.

      Browsing is not an issue. I recently started using FF on the only important (to me) NHS site, which I had previously thought required IE6. No problem.

      The real killers are the surgery back-end systems. Half-a-dozen different companies (more? 10 or 12?) produce surgery systems, all running on Windows, all mission-critical, and running all day long. One important one is still *DOS*-based. No-one in their right mind would try to virtualise these - it's just too risky. Here's your real problem - convince these companies to port to Linux, and you're done. In surgeries, anyway.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Not as simple as just switching to a different OS

    You've missed a big point in the fact that a lot of applications used within the NHS have been designed specifically for Internet Explorer and a lot of them do not function correctly with other browsers.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Applications ?

      Forget Internet Explorer and browsers, that's the easy bit.

      Almost every single application is developed to run on MS Windows. FACT. Companies, governments, charities, etc all run MS Windows as it is the ONLY way they can run the applications they need.

      Yes, yes, there are people out there developing for Mac, Linux, Amiga, NeXT, ZOS, etc, but those are NICHE markets and home developers.

      Until the world stops using MS Windows on 90% of the machines the situation won't change.

      And as a taxpayer and shareholder, I'm not happy risking the money required to pay for the redevelopment of all the applications my company uses throughout the business. Moderate sized business with 500 apps in the portfolio.

      I'm not defending the MS position - just pointing out fact.

      1. Lan ser

        Tool, thats part of the FUD

        70% of active webservers run a *nix of some sort only 18% are M$ not exactly a niche market or home developers, also the list of major companies and government orgs that are switching to linux is ever growing.

        The only reason Companies, Governmenst and charities run M$ is because tools like you tell them linux can't run the software they need which is downright bollocks. There are some specialist apps that might need windows but most of them can be run via VM and most companies just need a word processor, email and spreadsheet all of them run perfectly and more securely than on windoze. So take your so called facts and shove them where the sun don't shine

      2. Tim Brown 1


        These days, it's really pretty simple to write your application to be independent of the end-user's operating system, particularly when the local machine is just used as an interface to a networked, server-based system.

        And if you think modern Linux development is just home-based, you really ought to get out more.

    2. Number6

      Not just Internet Explorer...

      But most likely the wonderful, much loved IE6. Sounds like an ideal time and an ideal excuse to finally ditch it and have the apps written properly.

      Oh wait, I forgot. We're broke.

    3. Hans 1



  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what migration cost?

    I work in an NHS hospital trust. We have a web-based patient records system which could be de-customised away from IE without changing the look-and-feel.

    Very few staff have a strong grasp of MS Office in the first place, so moving them to Sun Office or OOo is not going to catastrophically harm their productivity.

    My one concern is that migrating away from Outlook is likely to harm productivity as it's the one MS Office application people here use to more than basic level.

    1. OSC

      Which is why...

      ......kolab came into existence

      now an integral part of KDE

  23. paulc

    simple choice for employees

    "Our source said the only alternative - a move to open source software - was unlikely to overcome reluctance from staff to move to less familiar systems."

    give them a simple choice... adapt or quit...

  24. Dave 142


    given Dave's great new plan to replace 150 managing bodies with 500 new ones I doubt there'll be any great new deals coming along in the future.

  25. Whitter

    Who pays the piper

    "the only alternative - a move to open source software - was unlikely to overcome reluctance from staff to move to less familiar systems"

    My money - their reluctance. Sod that. Learn it.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who pays the piper

      Agreed. If we were talking about training for the next version of Office, it'd be training days and group hugs for everybody and no second thoughts about the expense. As soon as moving to sustainable and open technologies is mentioned - something which would give vendor-independence and free up some money for just about every non-behemoth in the IT business, especially ones on this side of the Atlantic - just having a different desktop background is suddenly prohibitively expensive.

      Snouts out of the trough, corrupt Wintards - make way for the penguin!

  26. frank 3


    ... and I thought geeks could do sums.


    Over 1.5 million people are employed by the NHS. Cost per person: less than £10 per person per year. Not bad really. Frankly, the electricity to power their computers is going to cost more than that.

    Cost of retraining 1.5 million people to use a different OS, different productivity suite etc. at (let's be really tight, lets assume the training is REALLY cheap, £50 a head and all they have to pay people's time, also lets say that the average wage in the NHS is only £100 a day and it only takes joe schmoe 1 day to learn a different OS and a different productivity suite) £150 a head:

    £225 million.

    Yeah, so: Open office. Sorted? Nah, not really.

    1. Captain Save-a-ho

      Level playing field

      NHS will spent more than that to move to Office2007, with it's extremely gay, confusing ribbon interface. At least OpenOffice is closer to Office2003 at this point, so the learning curve isn't as steep.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        strangely enough

        The NHS does do a little more than just type documents. They have all these fancy machines, that cost millions of pounds, doing tests to find out what's wrong with you.

        Most of those will only speak to windows computers, 3.11 in some cases! Then you have all the patient records systems etc, on the custom built software (windows based, naturally).

        Changing what version of office people use is negligible in comparison to getting all the diagnostic machines, made by competing vendors of course, to speak to each other at the best of times, nevermind doing an OS migration!

    2. OSC

      Surely you can do better than that?

      They are all using computers? I don't think so

      No training costs with an "upgrade"? Of course not, how silly

      Downtime due to cornflicker? No problem

      Longer hardware refresh cycles? who wants that?

      cont'd p94

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      These sums don't work

      because most of them don't even have computers. Many of those that do, don't use a productivity suite.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      no problem - just keep on using the software they've got

      Unless the NHS has got suckered into some subscription deal, there is *no problem* - do what the rest of us do and keep on using your current licenses. Zero additional licensing cost, zero training, zero upgrade churn. And if they had bought more licenses than they had computers, zero additional cost for deploying more machines.

      However, the odds are that being an arm of government it *is* a subscription deal.

    5. Joe Montana


      I've seen several companies upgrade to different MS versions and offer no retraining whatsoever, and the jump from ms 2003 to ms 2007 is much bigger than going to openoffice.

      Employees are generally expected to get on with it.

      You think they'll complain? Sure they will, but they will complain whatever you do and noone will care anyway. At the end of the day, employees will use what their employer gives them.

      I've seen companies where people were using linux or mac and their staff got on just fine with them, and their overall level of complaint seems to be lower than windows based companies...

    6. Cameron Colley

      RE: Training.

      Training? My dear old mom received some IT training for Windows 98 and Office back in the day -- she's gone on to use Kubuntu and Windows7 with Open Office without any additional training, not even "IT Support" from me. Office suites might change where they put things but people who use them tend to, in my experience, find where those things are as and when they need them. So, apart from the odd bit of confusion, I can't see much Office training being needed.

      Then you have any browser-based forms and applications -- provided they'll work in Firefox or Chrome or whatever then it doesn't matter which OS the users of these are on because they never need to touch the OS. Same goes for anything terminal based -- will work through any old terminal client.

      So, training going to Linux should be minimal fro a lot of organisations -- it's only those installing and configuring the software who need to know the differences. Anyone else should never touch the OS anyhow.

      I'd say the only expensive barrier is replacing any proprietary or bespoke systems which rely on Windows -- in fact, that may make it cheaper to stay with Windows even under very expensive licenses.

      There's an interesting, if old, article about Ernie Ball moving to Linux which seems to agree with my assessment also.

  27. Gerrit Hoekstra

    That'll teach the stupid UK taxpayer!

    It's not that, from the early days, the tax payer or the policy makers were not aware of the open source alternatives to this project. Both could have lobbied and set the technology direction back then, but we left the decision to lazy and short-sighted quango execs who were only too happy to be cajoled by the 'preferred suppliers'.

  28. Philip Hands
    Thumb Up

    at last -- site licenses are tool to maintain vendor lock-in

    As long as the last machine on site, or the last instance of an application appears to have a marginal cost of zero, there is no incentive or budget to replace that machine/application with something cheaper.

    Even it it's clear that the overall solution is an astounding rip-off, nobody is going to be able to offer an instantaneous replacement of the incumbent system, and only a very brave manager would even think about it (anyone seen brave management in the NHS recently?)

    Of course, this is probably all just negotiations -- I'll not be surprised if some idiot at the NHS will be crowing about the marvelous deal they've got when agreeing to pay MS 'only' £100m per year, rising at 20% per year.

    This might actually allow the high-speed Free Software mammals in the door to start nibbling at the vulnerable extremities of Microsotf's lumbering dinosaur.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A low price to start with and now you're hooked... some kind of Microsoft junkie...we should be sending the NHS to rehab!

  30. Michael 82

    Off to?

    Buying Solutions anyone?

  31. Ross 7


    So, pay £225m and use the software for as long as you like, or pay £65m a year for 12 years, with an option to leave the agreement every 3 years? I know they are big numbers, but seriously - knock the 0's off the end and it should be pretty straightforward even for NHS management! It appears MS hadn't anticipated the NHS actually pulling the plug, and now are refusing to relicense unless the new cost covers their "losses" on the old scheme. Great excuse to go OSS.

    The benefits are huge - if the NHS can go OSS, then *everyone* can. They're absolutely huge! That's going to worry MS. Initial costs may be no lower, but anyone with half a brain knows it's better to pay £150 this year and £50 every year after that than to pay £100 every year. Plus it forces ppl to dump their IE5/6 based solutions which can only be a good thing (presuming you value the privacy of your medical records).

    Training only really needs to be done for admins not the plebs. If you can't figure out how to use any word processor having used another one extensively then maybe the NHS isn;t the best place for you? At least not on the employee side...

    I'm fairly certain the NHS side are just playing chicken (as are MS) to get the best deal they can, and don't really want to go OSS, but we can but dream.

  32. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Not sure all the 1.5m employees are using life or death software everyday.

    The important stuff, the stuff in ICU and theatres is running inside instruments, it might be windows underneath (although is more likely to be VXWorks etc) has an interface that is different on every model and every maker.

    Most of the clerical apps are either in-browser or running a terminal emulator talking to some mainframe curses type app. The only issues with these are the ones that are IE6 only which are going to need changing for Windows7 anyway.

    The only people who need windows are managers doing Powerpoint . As a general principle anyone in any organisation that needs Powerpoint should be fired - their job is obviously not vital.

    As for the retraining - the BBC just redesigned it's web site. Do all the millions of visitors from around the world suddenly need retraining to use it? Do you need retraining to click on the little red circle to close the browser on Ubuntu rather than red cross to close it on windows

  33. nathanfriend

    Opportunity for a move to open-source

    This is a great opportunity to move to open-source, money saved from licensing costs could be used to support the transition.

  34. the old rang
    Gates Horns

    All that money...

    There is one piece of hospital management software, recognized by many as the best in the world. Strangely enough, the software was developed by the Veterans Administration (under George Bush, and having Obama toot his tweeter to take credit... but ...) It was developed to take in the needs and problems of a MASSIVE hospitalization problem, and, works... It does not use Microsoft products, and, has been available for years...

    For FREE.

    NHS, having been sold a bill of good (will not even postulate that there may have been some under table financing) has been doing NHS for a ton (tonne) of money for years, causing a loss that will also include dependency on current ability to 'cross-over' to Linux with so may years of money spent, that could have had system working better, cheaper, with fewer problems...

    You see, chaps...

    Much as I dislike much of what 'government developed' generally means, OPEN SOURCE medical system software, developed away from general government interference, by the VA out of self preservation and using Linux... saves money, and with attending non-cost packages says YOUR NHS was as fleeced as the sheep in Australia and New Zealand....


    From a Linux user, tired of gobsmack ware.

  35. sam tapsell

    linux FTW

    I am a GP. If it is now my choice as to how we spend money then we are going ubuntu all the way. About time for some switched on thinking

  36. Anonymous Coward

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    "Our source said the only alternative - a move to open source software - was unlikely to overcome reluctance from staff to move to less familiar systems."

    As usual stubbornness blocks progress.

    Fail, because they all do

  37. This post has been deleted by its author

  38. Magnus_Pym

    Can we just clarify?

    A lot of people have said this already but as the article clearly say 'Licensing will get a lot more expensive' I think we should be told how.

    £65m x 12 years = £780m

    £225m x 1 off cost = £225m

    I presume they could get 'upgrades' for free but it looks to like you could have bought the whole lot outright 3 times (Win XP + oOfice XP, Vista + Office 2007 and , Win7 + Office 2010) for the same price. As far as I know they still use 2000 and XP.

    Where is the 'more expensive' bit?

  39. kit

    Ditch windows and Office Altogether

    Why not ditch MS software and go for Open Source and Java , once and for all. It can save NHS tons of Pounds

  40. Marky hearts
    Gates Halo

    Google, SharePoint, deal.

    This sounds like deal brokering. This time last year there was a lot of talk of the close ties that the current government have with Google.

    from The Times July 6th 2009...

    "Steve Hilton, one of David Cameron’s closest advisers, is married to Rachel Whetstone, the company’s vicepresident of global communications and public affairs. Mr Cameron flew to San Francisco to address the Google Zeitgeist conference in 2007 at the company’s expense. Five months ago, it was announced that Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, was joining a Conservative business forum to advise on economic policy"

    ...So y'know it may be that the current government aren't really interested in propogating Microsoft influence on the NHS. However, can you imagine an NHS flavor of google desktop? OMG maybe?

    The current government also appears to want to decentralise the NHS, for example it's abolishing PCTs by 2013. Ironically a good way to abolish centralised structure in the NHS is to outsource computing to a cloud provider like Google. That way you turn operations into a donut of GPs, clinics and services, with little or no central bureaucracy or infrastructure to stand between them and the all powerful government.

    The problem is that the NHS have already done so much with a Windows based intranet, they are one of the largest users of SharePoint in the UK. That is a fat investment, and for this reason, I cannot imagine them suddenly saying ooh well let's go to Linux because it's cheaper and forget all of our intranet stuff and our data collection - I know an NHS data analyst and his team uses Excel and Access to analyse data in one of the largest NHS trusts in the UK.

    I may be proved wrong, but I think this whole story is about deal brokering. It wouldn't suprise me if MS are playing hardball to show that they're not afraid of Google et al. As for the other stuff - putting up prices, vendor tie-ins, expensive contracts, come on now you idealistic 6th formers. That's what you get for living in a capitalist system? What do you expect.

  41. Neil Gardner

    New Deal

    Here is a deal. The NHS phases in or IBM Symphony (where only wordprocessing, spreadsheets and basic presentations are required) in all cases where new licences are required (given that the interface is almost identical to MS Office 2003), but donates £65 million to the development team to improve user experience, performance and functionality of the suite for the next three years. Indeed one mini-project would be to provide a standalone Writer application that would load in a fraction of a second with a simplified user-interface. As for e-mail, just switch over to Evolultion and Zimbra and kiss goofbye to Exchange.... Within their 65 million development budget, they could also convert their zillions of Access micro-databases (often little more than glorified spreadsheets) into MySQL DBs.

    The additional development team could be based in the UK and supplement teams already working for IBM, Novell and Canonical. Within 2 or 3 years would have surpussed MS Office in usability. Simultaneously the NHS should investigate greater use of and synchronisation with online office suites. That would be 65 million squid well spent, funding UK developers (that;s around 650 developers at £100K per annum or 1300 at 50K!!) ....

    1. dylan 4

      but who do you think will do the work?

      Being one of the culprits of creating zillions of Access micro-databases (in the absence of time or funding to do things properly) in order to get work done TODAY (as opposed to "by 2013, for 12 billion pounds"), just who do you think is out there that has all of the below:

      a) the business knowledge to understand what the little Access DB needs to do

      b) the understanding of MySQL to develop the replacement DB

      c) the understanding of the larger legacy systems that Access has been hooked into

      d) access to other development tools that may be required in order to hook MySQL into these legacy systems (which may not even have JDBC/ODBC)

      e) the time to build, test and implement the new MySQL system and train the users

      f) the clout to make sure the USERS are allocated adequate and effective training time.

      You're talking about 'zillions' of systems which have been developed over many years to plug holes in other systems, many of them with multiple interdependencies (FWIW, the mis-use of spreadsheets to approximate database functionality is a much bigger problem than the reverse IMO).

      Simply trying to port everything MS to open source would be a massive undertaking way beyond the resources of on the ground staff, which leaves you with contractors (or LSPs!). We all know how well this went with NPfIT. What you get is a bunch of people with no business understanding, questionable technical skills, and zero quality control, who deliver (if you're lucky they deliver anything)half the things they promised, of which 80% are different to what you asked for. You won't do this for free.

      As far as fixing these systems, yes, one day it has to happen, but pretending it will be cheap or easy is wrong-headed.

      Regarding open source (and getting back on topic) much as I'm an MS hater, back-office Access users and operational sysadmins are probably the least cost-effective people to move off MS platforms.

      Start with the top level management (who need email, spreadsheets, word processing and presentation), ward level clinical users, and clinicians' secretarial staff. Most on the ward clinical apps run from a browser session or can run from a terminal session or the like. The clinical equipment itself is divided between 'nix and windows platforms, but this is IRRELEVANT as licensing of SW on these modalities and associated workstations is covered by the equipment vendor, not the NHS (the site license isn't required to run the embedded Win 3.11 on that ultrasound machine).

      Central IT/ servers team needs to do whatever the systems they are supporting requires - the question of the cost of the OS/DBMS licensing is subsidiary to the functionality of the clinical applications they host. If the best clinical app for a purpose needs to run under SQLServer2005, they will just have to stick it up their virtual server like it or no.

      Technical sysadmins can and do already use whatever platform they like, whether officially supported (and license paid for) or not ;-P.

  42. Geoff Mackenzie

    Wow, MS really are getting pretty close ...

    ... to actively killing for profit with this one.

    People are too defeatist about platform lock-in I think, especially with web apps. A web application that only works in IE6 today could be working in several browsers in a couple of weeks given a motivated team of developers. Obviously depends on the size of the application and the extent of the lock in, but it's building for IE6 that's awkward, not adjusting for standards compliance and portability. The bulk of these applications can stay, we just need a bit of relatively superficial work.

    Surely there are a lot of cases where a quick porting effort would pay off hundreds of times over if it meant your organisation could switch to a free desktop platform?

    (And retraining of users is often a bit of a red herring as well, a lot of corporate users use two or three business applications and will need a five second orientation session to find the shortcuts to them on a new desktop, not expensive classroom training - if they spend most of the day in one or two web applications and those still look the same, I doubt they'll be panicking just because the icon on the 'start menu' has changed).

  43. The_Police!

    Time to do the decent thing

    Ditch Microsoft and move over to Linux.

    Less security problems, high availability, and best of all, it's free!!!!!!

  44. Tim Brown 1

    Or how about...

    The British government changes UK copyright law and distributes torrents of Microsoft software to anyone that needs it in the UK for free...

    Ah, we can but dream :)

  45. T0mW


    You dance with the Devil, you will get burned!

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Its about centralised costs savings - the Government will claim a 65M PA saving. The increased licensing costs will be picked up regionally/locally - NHS will continue to shambles on exactly as before, just paying a little more.

  47. jimmyhill1998
    Gates Horns

    Good in the long term but difficult in the short term.

    Unfortunately when the NHS decided to get in bed with Microsoft it wasn't just in this licensing agreement. Practically all Connecting for Health national systems are designed to run on Windows only (or Internet Explorer if browser based) and the NHSMail system was transferred to Exchange just last year. Hospitals are therefore locked in even if they wanted to change. Obviously these systems could be modified to run on other platforms but if anyone thinks the suppliers will do this for free (when is specifically wasn't in the contract) then I'm afraid they are mistaken.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Move a GP surgery to open source "

    This surgery is half open source already, and the efforts have been to move us to MS.

    We don't have trouble with the Linux server and the Postfix email system.

    The back end clincial software runs on M, which is quite usable on a Linux box, and is displayed in a terminal emulation that mainly pretends to be a Wyse terminal from last century.

    The more incarnations of the GP systems are Web based, and not mostly fixed to IE6.

    And the admindroid Word/Excel users would be more effective with Notepad.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    They Should be planning the Switch

    Lets face it, large organisations are tied into Microsoft because useless programmers have failed to make their "bespoke" software platform independent. I use to work for a large public funded body (tm) that recently managed to build a Web Based/Java Based database that wouldn't run without IE6. They have been going though a whole heap of pain to upgrade from Windows 2000. If only they took the slightly more painful route and made all their major systems platform independent they won't need to be scared of the pain in the future. It may still be that they run Microsoft, but at least it will be out of choice and the merits of what MS can provide against any other system. It would also give them the power to negotiate better with the licensing. MS knows they could not move away from MS without great expense, all MS need to do is sell their product so that it will make it cheaper to stay then to go, then next time, as they still run MS dependent systems, they will be in exactly the same position.

  50. Joe Montana

    A lesson, will they learn it?

    If you threaten to move to Linux sure MS will give you a short term "deal", but you won't save anything in the long run... They will bait you with massive discounts and get you even more locked in, then a few years down the line the discounts disappear but by this time you're so locked in that you can't migrate away...

    And yet people still fall for this, time and time again.. when will people learn? Don't just threaten to move away from MS (or any other vendor who tries to lock you in), actually do it as soon as you can because the longer you remain with a proprietary vendor the more locked in you will become.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Oh dear does the medicine have a horible after taste wot a shame !

    Since MS has just pulled the plug on XP (95%) of the NHS desktops. the retraining cost argument doesnt apply, as those muppets would need to do a days trainining on windoze7.

    Office 2010 requires a hardware (memory) upgrade so there are cost there as well.

    So they should stay with what they have got and start a migration to open office, and ubantu.

    And sack any manager who cant Impress their boss by self-migrate from powerpoint.

    Any other software that relies on IE6 should get the supply back in to re-write it properly ie browser neutral.

    And for Outlook - well your stuffed there. But i could be worse if the NHS had gone with IBM then they might now be on Notes mail :lol

  52. Zap
    Thumb Up

    This is GREAT news

    This is great news, for years Microsoft have offered large commercial organisations better terms than the NHS despite the NHS having the largest user base in Europe.

    Most Trusts are still using old versions of MSOffice, some on Office97 many on Office 2000 and most on Office XP.

    So now is the ideal time to switch to OpenOffice which is very similar in function; It can read MSOffice files and will require minimal training.

    OpenOffice is FREE and trusts can choose to develop support inhouse or buy OpenOffice from organisations like Sun with support included.

    As for the Servers, again there is a valid argument to moving to Open Source LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) solutions. There is a plethora of Open Source solutions that can be built on LAMP and with the weight of the NHS behind it, this community model will enable Trusts to drive down costs.

    Microsoft has had a chance to put forward realistic pricing, but it has been greedy (betting that NHS purchasing managers would not risk dropping M$), well they have and good on them.

    Now we need a directive to tell Trusts to use MSOffice and other Opensource software by default and show a business case for the continued use of Microsoft and other commercial products. This should also be applied to other Public Sector Organisations.

  53. Adrian Midgley 1

    CT Scan software already Open Source

    University Hospital of Geneva. All this century. Complete PAS (Picture Archiving System, for xrays and other images including CT scans) Open Source.

    DICOM. An open standard for clinical imaging. Pictures movable with patients.

    Embedded software actually driving the whirly and glowing bits of the scanner? Not our problem, and not covered by the enterprise agreement anyway.

  54. doveman
    Paris Hilton

    How complicated is it really?

    When I go to my GP, I see he uses a PC running XP with what looks like a bespoke application accessing my records from a backend server. It seems pretty shite in that it doesn't even have a search feature, so that half my appointment is often spent with him trying to look up my old results/medications, etc.

    Unless the actual data is held in some proprietary format, surely it's not that hard to write linux application that can access that data, and with a bit more effort a backend linux system to manage that data, if it's currently a MS backend.

    Perhaps we could get all the linux programmers out there to collaborate and write the necessary software for free (maybe there could be a donation fund), to help out the (not-for-profit) NHS, and thus it's patients, in these hard times. There might need to be some oversight from some user-friendliness-experts, as linux geeks still seem to think it's perfectly acceptable for a complete newbie to have to type unintelligible (to non-techie peeps) terminal commands to update linux, but I'm sure it could be done.

    Having said that, I haven't got a clue what's involved.

    Paris, 'cos she hasn't got a clue either.

  55. Anonymous Coward

    Worry not about PCT's

    Worry not about PCT's, they're all going in 3 years time anyway as they've lost their funding!

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