back to article NHS: Thanks for the free work, Linux nerds, now face our trademark cops

The small team behind an ambitious NHoS Linux project are calling it a day, citing receipt of a trademark infringement warning from the UK Department of Health's (DoH) "brand police" as the "final straw." The raison d’être of NHoS was to identify a way to roll out NHSbuntu, a remix of the open-source Linux distro Ubuntu …

  1. Andy 73


    See title.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Shameful

      Yes, but no.

      Trying to do this was hugely laudable but ultimately folly without the backing of someone with a huge amount of clout in Gov or the NHS.

      Never bet on your business stakeholders agreeing that your direction (however sensible) is the right direction.

      They would have been much better off staying stealthed until they actually had a product. Probably even could have got a VC to stump up the cash to do it properly if they had cloaked in a services play and called it HealthIX or similar. Re-using or even appearing to copy someone else's TM's is always likely to bite you on the butt.

      To be clear - I've nothing but respect for these guys - but sometimes nearly all of the time style counts over substance, especially in Business and Gov.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Shameful

        Yes, but no.

        Also, the trademark thing is a real issue as daft as it sounds. If the NHS doesn't defend its trademark even on things like this then it could lose it and allow shysters to abuse it.

        OTOH getting permission to use the trademark is often easier than it sounds.

        And finally,… if this is just about the cease and desist then bite back the bile and rebrand as something like Ubuntu for health, make use of the term NHS in any text exemplary. And check with Canonical on the use of their trademarks!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shameful

          Have an upvote for actually understanding the implications of the trademark/branding issue, rather than just going off on an "Oh Noes proprietary software!" rant.

          Anon as I'm an NHS tech person. I extensively use Linux. On the desktop even. And we were getting questions about this project, when we were going to start validating it for use in the estate because it was "official", "supported" etc. When it was none of those things.

          Good on them for trying, honestly. But some of us watching with experience of trying to get things done in NHS IT always thought it would be an uphill battle. Desktop Linux is already a hard enough sell in organisations far less technically dysfunctional^H^H^H diverse than the NHS.

          1. Muscleguy Silver badge

            Re: Shameful

            Having been involved in debates on operating systems in lab environments in science I know how it could be. The killer thing in switching from Windows to Mac in one for eg was that the then latest automated dna sequencers only ran on the Mac and the analysis software likewise. We had just got rid of the last windows box when the head of animal services who had been tasked with replacing the paper animal ordering system with an online one which was 'platform independent', an intranet web app we thought came back with something he had paid his nephew to do. It was a windows only program. We had to buy a windows box whose only function was ordering animals. It did nothing else.

            A lot of stuff in Biology was Mac only, I suspect because it was very visual. We dealt in pictures, graphics etc (a dna sequence came as overlaid multicolour waves one colour for each base with the sequence, editable above showing what had been called). Also scripting in Java on the Mac was seen as making it easy to develop apps.

            Now the youngest who is in bioinformatics just uses her Mac to telnet into the mainframe to run large genome sequencing and analysis runs on large capacity servers using the command line. She is one of those who prefers the Terminal to the Finder us dinosaurs use.

            1. WallMeerkat

              Re: Shameful

              "It was a windows only program. We had to buy a windows box"

              Was there no possibility of:

              - Bootcamp

              - VM / Parallels running bootcamp partition as a VM

              - Wine

              rather than an entire other box?

            2. fredj

              Re: Shameful

              I had dealings with Macs in labs years ago. They got their 'in' by virtually giving computers to education people. This was especially so in the USA and Japan. As I was working with projects that used Macs in industry we were 'screwed' blind by their prices and totally indifferent support in the UK. We did have people using Spark stations but that was far too complex for general use. Sadly, Windows worked well enough back in those days. (Linux or OS2 were jokes sorry to say.)

        2. d3vy

          Re: Shameful

          "Also, the trademark thing is a real issue as daft as it sounds. If the NHS doesn't defend its trademark even on things like this then it could lose it and allow shysters to abuse it."

          Exactly, When I started reading the article I was under the impression that this was an internal project and some people were being made redundant... I felt bad for them.

          Then I got a bot further and saw that they were volunteers and thought WTF? Finally I realised that this is a group who got together with a noble cause but with no backing from the NHS, not at the NHS's request and decided to make an OS for healthcare (Good) but used NHS in their branding (BAD).

          Like I said, based in the product name I assumed it was an NHS developed system... This is why TMs need to be protected.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Shameful

            The duplicitous part is that the NHS had already discussed the original name and they agreed to change it to something else which was approved by the NHS people but still get served with another trademark infringement letter. The NHS people also agreed to meet them numerous other times, but cancelled at the last minute. Basically giving encouragement that it was worth working on the project, but it's clear that instead those on the NHS side were just stringing them along in order to extract concessions from Microsoft. It's a really shitty way to do business and especially so from a public body.

        3. Rob Gr

          Re: Shameful

          I concur here - I wouldn't expect any product to use the initials NHS, unless actually part of the NHS. Having been warned over NHSubuntu, they really may have foreseen issues with NHoS. On the other hand, immediately reaching for lawyers was a bit heavy handed.

          I'm also surprised the NHS would actually consider anything produced on a volunteer basis by 4 workers. What about support concerns? Are they capable of moving fast in the case of breakage? There may be other factors at play.

        4. Mark 65 Silver badge

          Re: Shameful

          f this is just about the cease and desist then bite back the bile and rebrand as something like Ubuntu for health

          Just carry on with the work, rebranding as Medibuntu or something. It's not like there aren't other health authorities around the world, even if you stuck to predominantly English speaking, that would have to solve similar issues and get their systems to work with similar documents/messaging formats etc as well as potentially interface to equipment.

          Short-sighted by the NHS on this one as they could have created this for their own use and then looked to sell it to private health and overseas markets.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Shameful

      No, just business as usual.

      You need to watch the first season of Yes Minister where Humphrey explains the actual functions of a minister, civil servant and the department as well as the NHS episode.

      Anything which will REDUCE the cost of IT will reduce the departmental budget which simply is not going to happen. It is against nature.

      This simply the civil servant ensuring that his sprog can attend the same college in Oxford as he has attended. Nothing personal, just business.

      1. Lars Silver badge

        Re: Shameful

        @Voland's right hand.

        Yes Minister, I liked it too, but lets not forget that at times there is a difference between facts and fiction. And if there is a time to ponder about it, it's about right now.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shameful

      "suggests NHS used them to get better deal with Microsoft"

      No, it was because just like Munich they realised that OSS was expensive to run and a far inferior solution.

    4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shameful

        Go ahead and use the NHS logo yourself, those of us who get "if it's wrong for one, then it's wrong for all" will quite happily watch the legal bods go after you.

        I respect your right to express your opinion, I don't respect the unnecessary use of profanity in doing so.

        If you have a considered argument why trademark / copyright law should not be applied equally then I'll respect you more. I won't be holding my breath as the NHS is stretched enough, of course in a few years that £375 million will have solved all of the problems so I could consider the risk.

    5. Oh Homer


      A government department is trademarked?

      1. d3vy

        Re: Wait...

        "A government department is trademarked"

        Try sending your own letters on MOD letter head and find out....

        1. BongoJoe

          Re: Wait...

          I once sent a memo around where I worked on Durham Prison headed notepaper.

          The bosses were less than impressed.

  2. James Dore

    Good sub-ed needed....

    Can someone sub-edit this article so it's actually readable please? I got fed up with trying to decipher the typos, misplaced apostrophes and general misspellings halfway through.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Good sub-ed needed....

      "Can someone sub-edit this article so it's actually readable please? I got fed up with trying to decipher the typos, misplaced apostrophes and general misspellings halfway through."

      Seconded. I was thinking about emailing my local MP and sending her a link to this article but given the mess it's in I doubt it would be a good idea.

    2. Guevera

      Re: Good sub-ed needed....

      ***Complains about lack of editing while using an adblocker***

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good sub-ed needed....

        >***Complains about lack of editing while using an adblocker***

        You might be onto something here..... removing all capitals/punctation when people AdBlock or ROT13ing every fifth word might be a more effective approach than begging freeloaders for whitelist inclusion..

    3. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Good sub-ed needed....

      Should be all good now. Software has bugs, articles have typos. We try to avoid them, but we can't catch them all.


      1. DontFeedTheTrolls

        Re: Good sub-ed needed....

        >diodesign "Should be all good now. Software has bugs, articles have typos. We try to avoid them, but we can't catch them all."

        Er, that's why you have editors and proof readers, so that you do catch them all.

        1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: DontFeedTheTrolls

          Big publications – from the NYT with its huge army of copy editors to the Grauniad with a sizable editing team - still let through errors. We have 3 region editors (North America, Europe, APAC), 1 news editor (UK) and 1 sub-editor (UK).

          It's frankly fucking amazing there aren't more errors slipping through on El Reg given the resources available. The current rate is pretty low. It's hard to find good editors who can do sperlinng, snarky headlines, and are experts in tech and science.


  3. James 51

    The cards are stacked against open source trying to break into the public sector. For one thing the opportunities for corruption both direct and indirect (and I do count revolving door jobs, consultancy and paid for travel, conferences and after dinner speeches in that) are few and far between. It also on shores a lot of risk and the managers would actually need to be good at their jobs and there is a certain element of go with what you know.

    1. Lysenko

      The cards are stacked against open source trying to break into the public sector.

      Getting open source through the door isn't a problem in itself, you just need an outfit like I Bribed Management or Crapita heading up the project and organising the requisite lunches at The Ivy etc.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge


        If the volunteers threw in £200 each, they could've wined and dined the heads of the NHS and pushed this through. Alas, their mistake was to believe that those who manage the NHS are doing it for the good of the organisation, and not for the good of 3rd party contractors who want to make a few quid off the back of a publically funded body.

        Roll on the next general election, and get these shower of bastards away from the NHS.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Roll on the next general election, and get these shower of bastards away from the NHS."

          "Roll on the next general election, and get these shower of bastards away from the NHS."

          You think the issue with NHS level bureaucratic decisions in anyway comes from the political party in power rather than devolved to either centralised organisations battling regional trusts?

          Check out that excellent documentary series on how UK politics and bureaucracy actually works - "Yes, Minister" and it's sequel "Yes, Prime Minister".

          1. ecofeco Silver badge

            Re: "Roll on the next general election, and get these shower of bastards away from the NHS."

            Love those shows. Too bad they too real to be laugh out loud funny.

            1. Jonathan Schwatrz

              Re: ecofeco Re: "Roll on the next general election....."

              "....Too bad they too real to be laugh out loud funny." I watched several episodes whilst on HMG's property, in the company of several career civil servants, and they thought it was laugh-out-loud hilarious.

          2. Mage Silver badge

            Re: "Roll on the next general election, and get these shower of bastards away from the NHS."

            And Yes, Minister DELIBERATELY didn't have any scenes in either House.

            1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

              Re: "Roll on the next general election, and get these shower of bastards away from the NHS."

              Not forgetting the spiritual successor, The Thick Of It.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "Roll on the next general election, and get these shower of bastards away from the NHS."

                "Not forgetting the spiritual successor, The Thick Of It."

                For some reason everytime I see/hear Emily Thornberry on TV/radio I immediately think "Nicola Murray"

            2. lorisarvendu

              Re: "Roll on the next general election, and get these shower of bastards away from the NHS."

              "And Yes, Minister DELIBERATELY didn't have any scenes in either House."

              Not only that, but it was never made clear what political party was in Government at the time, and hence what party Hacker was in. In some ways that was the scary icing on the cake, the fact that it didn't actually matter who was in, because they all behave exactly the same.

              I second the comment earlier that the NHS episode is very good - a half-hour of comedy that explains more about the NHS than a hundred documentaries ever could.

              1. conscience

                Re: "Roll on the next general election, and get these shower of bastards away from the NHS."

                @ lorisarvendu

                While you make a good point, AFAIK 'Yes, Minister' and 'Yes, Prime Minister' were meant to be a portrayal of the Conservative party and they way they worked at the time it was made, especially with regard to how the ministers were controlled via gentlemen's clubs, promises of directorships and other cushy future jobs etc. 'The Thick Of It' was supposed to be a version of how the Labour party did things, who (arguably) had less access to the above upper-class inducements as their rivals and so relied more on bullying as a means of controlling their politicians.

        2. DontFeedTheTrolls

          "If the volunteers threw in £200 each"

          There were four volunteers. In what universe do you think £800 would have covered wining and dining the top level NHS to get the slightest bit of traction. £800 probably wouldn't cover the wine for the first course at the sort of place those guys expect to be wined and dined.

      2. Mage Silver badge


        They only take notice of IT they can get commission on?

        How many managers in Crapita know ANYTHING about ANY alternatives to leading proprietary and expensive lock in annual licensing?

    2. Naselus

      "The cards are stacked against open source trying to break into the public sector. "

      They certainly were in this case. And for good reasons.

      You're dealing with the NHS, which is what, the third largest organization on the planet (behind only the Indian railway and the Chinese army)? And what you're offering is a system being made entirely by 4 guys on a voluntary basis. I've worked with the NHS before, and this doesn't really strike me as a "Linux vs Microsoft" issue (though good work trying to paint it as one so this can be held up as a Holy War totem for years to come); this is a "stable, solid 40-year old megacorporation with hundreds of thousands of professional employees vs 4 dudes working in their spare time" issue.

      I can just imagine the meeting.

      NHS Rep: OK, we're the NHS, so obviously we need 24 hour support available UK-wide with a 4-hour SLA for any core system. If anything goes wrong, then people literally die, so we're pretty hot on this.

      NHoS Rep: Well, there's 4 of us, and we all have day jobs that take up the bulk of our time. But I can answer my mobile at work and talk you through fixing most problems if need be. Well, unless we get bored and stop working on it, obviously, because there's literally nothing aside from goodwill stopping us from doing that.

      NHS Rep: ...OK

      I wasn't there, but an exchange something like this probably happened. And by the end of the meeting, the NHS rep almost certainly decided that this had been a complete waste of his time. The NHoS guys failing to pick up on that is just another sign of their naivety, tbh.

      Hell, they were lucky that they got a meeting in the first place and weren't just dismissed as a joke out of hand. The NHS are probably genuinely interested in exploring an open source alternative, but quickly decided a tiny all-volunteer team was not the group to deliver it. Something like Red Hat, they might be more likely to talk to (and, in fact, I know a lot of NHS trusts are using Linux in various systems in their server rooms and have been for years).

      Then you have the whole naming thing; the NHS asks them to stop using the name 'NHS' in their branding since it implies this is an official NHS product (which it isn't). When they react to this by changing their name to 'NHoS', they must've thought they were deliberately trolling.

      This is the NHS. It is, by nature, deeply risk-averse, in the same way aerospace engineers tend to be deeply risk-averse, because if they take a risk and it goes wrong people die. NHoS was asking this risk-averse organization to consider swapping out a working system with gold-standard support levels for what amounted, in their view, to an untried hobby project, and then had the nerve to use NHS branding without permission, not once, but twice.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Jeez, it sounds like it was a pilot project - proof of concept you know.

        If they could have built the underlying tool you can throw money at the rest of those problems.

      2. Jonathan Schwatrz

        Re: Naselus

        IMHO, anyone down-voting Naselus's post is living in a fantasy world with zero real experience of delivering a proper IT service to a large corporation.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon


          Naselus said

          I wasn't there, but an exchange something like this probably happened. And by the end of the meeting, the NHS rep almost certainly decided that this had been a complete waste of his time. The NHoS guys failing to pick up on that is just another sign of their naivety, tbh.

          Jonathan said

          anyone down-voting Naselus's post is living in a fantasy world

          So, the poster you referred to created a made-up situation based on guesswork (might or might not be true, I wasn't there either) and judged someone based on their imagined response to that scenario and yet you claim anyone who finds fault with that approach is living in a fantasy world?

          I'm no great debater, but even I can see the holes in that particular argument.

      3. strum

        > the NHS, which is what, the third largest organization on the planet

        Something of a myth. The NHS is composed of hundreds of (linked) organisations - each with its own employees/budget/assets.

  4. Aqua Marina

    I actually agree with the government on this (having read their letter). To say your product is for use in the NHS is quite acceptable. To use the NHS branding and logo is simply passing-off unless you get written authorisation to use them beforehand (they did get written authorisation didn't they???). It's basic licensing 101. The volunteer aspect of it is here nor there.

    There is a huge difference between offering a product for use in the NHS, and claiming that something is an NHS product. That was the distinction the government pointed out in their letter.

    1. Simon Lacey

      I'm possibly missing something, but sounds to me like someone has decided to put some software together for someone else, and that someone else didn't ask for it, doesn't want it, and would like them to stop using their name.

      1. Flywheel Silver badge

        It may be news, but isn't that often the way innovation works? You see a problem; you come up with a fix; it gets adopted and everyone's happy. Or not, as in this case. No good deed goes unpunished, as they say.

      2. stephanh

        it is all as clear as mud

        Code4Health is an "initiative" "supported" by the NHS.

        Code4Health seems to have somehow supported/ordered/endorsed/considered the NHoS system.

        Pro tip: if your project is endorsed by an initiative supported by the actual decision maker, it is doomed.

      3. ed_

        I agree... you are missing something!

        The someone else that it has been put together for is the NHS - at hospital, GP, clinic level.

        The someone else that doesn't want it is the secretary of state and DH.

        And no one has been using their name.

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Agreed, there's a significant risk of passing off and it seems petulent to complain about it as no-one in the NHS acutally asked them to do this stuff as far as I can tell.

      If they want to piss off their only potential customer in a legally-acceptable way, they could just change the name to UbHUNTu.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nobody at the top in the NHS commissioned the software, but these guys aren't outsiders; NHS developers worked with the NHSbuntu guys to help make Linux on NHS desktops a viable option. And by "with" I mean writing code together on the same bank of desks.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Except they were using NHoS.

    4. PVecchi

      It's not as simple as that.

      There have been discussion, changes and expectations of support from the management.

      As I wrote in my comment below they could have fixed it very easily but probably it required too much thinking effort.

      NHoS is not a competitor or doing anything similar to what the NHS is doing so we could go to court and maybe win but it is not the approach we prefer and we don't want to waste NHS' money in legal battles as patients need them most.

    5. ed_

      But did you read the article?

      They didn't get permission - DH wouldn't talk to them. And they had previously had a takedown notice with the 'sailing much closer to the wind' NHSbuntu branding.

      They also didn't try and pass themselves off as being part of the NHS (unlike so many commercial companies that pretend to be NHS like DHL etc), and they didn't use the NHS logo.

      Just reading the DH letter gives a rather one sided story, as you might expect!

      1. Aqua Marina


        I look at the website and see the words "NHSbuntu" and "NHSMail2". They have the NHOS logo at the top left, which is clearly the NHS logo cut at 2/3 with a dotted O inserted into the middle. They also have a video on the homepage that has the NHS logo with the letters "buntu" added after it.

        This is straight forward passing off.

        1. Aqua Marina

          Re: Bollocks

          So far 3 of the 4 core members have down voted me. Just waiting on number 4. Just remember guys, down voting doesn't make it any less true.

    6. Just Enough

      cack-handed good intentions

      Agreed. This is really an case of misguided good intentions. They mean well, but they've gone about it in a completely cack-handed way.

      Just because the NHS is a government agency, does great work, and is under-funded, doesn't mean they are a charity case who'll eagerly snap up everything that any civic-minded group might do for them. They have to follow processes, just the same as any other massive organisation. Probably even more so.

      NHoS are a self-appointed group who decided to appropriate NHS logos for a project that NHS England didn't ask them for. It's not unreasonable to the NHS to then worry that people might think that there is an official project, when they have absolutely no over-sight or control of it. How are they to know what kind of quality control is being applied? How are they to know that it won't turn into an embarrassing mess? Can you imagine the headlines? "Broken NHS system depends on 4 men in a cupboard."

      The fact that they'd already re-branded from another name suggests that they really weren't paying attention the first time.

      If they had wanted to produce something for the NHS, the way to go about it is to create it first, under a completely unrelated banner, and then impress the NHS how good it is, and it's free! Why couldn't they do that?

  5. steelpillow Silver badge

    So familiar

    Administrators and managers simply cannot grasp that open software is about open licensing is about their business model.

    Linux geeks simply cannot grasp that to introduce open software you have to be a business/management change person and change the business model first. Then you have to re-educate staff and introduce draconian penalties for failing to adopt the new business model.

    UK Cabinet are (or at least used to be) aware of this but have just not pushed hard enough to break Whitehall's mindless inertia.

    1. PVecchi

      Re: So familiar

      We are not all Linux geeks.

      Some are fantastic techies that must be confined in writing good code others are out there presenting that code as a package and a SKU for maintenance and support usable by the public sector procurement.

      That unfortunately allows procurement to present a competitive offer to the usual suppliers to get discounts so it doesn't work all the time as $vendor will just drop the price to keep the lock-in going.

      The issue is that HW, SW, security, support, maintenance, electricity, cross application lock-in, etc... are seeing as different costs by different departments.

      If they simply put together the costs over 3/5 years it would be easy to see that their costs will be cut at least in half with Open Source and Linux.

      1. DontFeedTheTrolls

        Re: So familiar

        If they simply put together the costs over 3/5 years it would be easy to see that their costs will be cut at least in half with Open Source and Linux.

        And what people who focus on cost often overlook is Risk.

        Who is maintaining the Open Source software?

        Who is fixing it when faults are found (and yes, faults are found in all types of software)?

        Who can we lynch when it all goes wrong?

        Rightly or wrongly there is a risk mitigation factor in procuring from the big guys. There's a good reason many enterprises pay for Red Hat instead of other distributions of open source software - they are paying for the maintenance, support and risk mitigation.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: So familiar

          "Who can we lynch when it all goes wrong?"

          Remind be again, who got lynched when Wannacry brought the NHS to its knees for several days?

        2. coderguy

          Re: So familiar

          All good points. There's one thing almost anyone not in the trenches fails to grasp. If you don't get a satisfactory support experience from one vendor, find another!

          The source is open, anyone can support a particular system and there are plenty of local firms out there.

        3. Hans 1

          Re: So familiar

          Who is maintaining the Open Source software?

          The 50 or so devs NHS hires with a tiny fraction of the licensing cost.

          Who is fixing it when faults are found (and yes, faults are found in all types of software)?

          See above. Have you ever had the displeasure with MS support ? Thought so ...

          Who can we lynch when it all goes wrong?

          Well, same as above, good luck "lynching" MS, IBM, Oracle etc ... NHS pays for ANY F*UP on their part, anyway ...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So familiar

            The 50 or so devs NHS hires with a tiny fraction of the licensing cost.

            Anyone who thinks this is a viable idea has probably never tried to recruit or retain open source developers in the NHS.

            I have. It's quite hard. The sorts of people you want to attract aren't the sorts of people who want to work for less money in some bureaucratic organisation in the middle of nowhere, where their technical skills aren't appreciated because it's stuffed to the brim with clinicians over-promoted to management, and semi-competent public sector back-office-for-life types who wouldn't survive in any other organisation.

            So you hire contractors. At which point your project might be doing OK but you have to make sure the knowledge doesn't keep walking out the door, and you're not saving so much money either.

            So you get a support contract from an open source vendor. But - and I say this from long and painful experience - they are almost all terrible at meeting the commercial requirements of an organisation like the NHS. That's not always a bad thing - many of the NHS's commercial requirements are onerous and ridiculous. But they need to be met. And some of these companies don't even show up to pre-sales meetings; I've seen it happen.

            I'm a big believer in the role of open source in the NHS. But there are more challenges than people often think.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So familiar

        Don’t forget the other trick in public sector procurement - “tender process is open to all, especially SMEs, as we want to encourage innovation, and where possible grow local businesses” ... then buried in the small print somewhere (possibly in a document you won’t get until after bid submitted) “you must demonstrate turnover over £50m for at least two previous years”

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No chance while a neoliberal government runs the UK.

    1. Hollerithevo


      Why is it 'neoliberal' and not just 'liberal'? Do you think the Conservative party is 'liberal'?

      Would this issue have been solved by 'neoconservative? Alt-Right? Who?

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Que?

        "Why is it 'neoliberal' and not just 'liberal'? Do you think the Conservative party is 'liberal'?

        Would this issue have been solved by 'neoconservative? Alt-Right? Who?"

        Oops. Google it. Neoliberalism is NOT liberalism.

        Basically, neoliberalism is Thatcherite conservatism.

        Neoconservatism only really exists in America, and basically applies to the current bat-shit crazy republicans

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "No chance while a neoliberal government runs the UK."

      Would you explain this further, explaining what neoliberal means with a detailed argument as to (a) how it applies the the present government (this would involving how the current occupants of Downing St and surrounding area could be construed as a government in any meaning of the word) and (b) how this influences the situation described in the article.

      Or should we just assume you're spouting some word you read somewhere?

  7. Chris Hills

    It's obvious

    There is far less chance, if any, chance to get kickbacks from open source development.

  8. Dr Fidget

    Probably just got leaned on

    More likely is that word came down from on high (Microshaft or one of it's pwned clones) as a cease and desist order otherwise the licence fees for Windoze are just going to go up and up.

  9. PVecchi

    NHoS means NHoS is not NHS

    NHoS is not a product or a service that could benefit from similarity in the name or the logo or that could create confusion on the market that could lead to damage to the goodwill and reputation of the NHS.

    To the contrary.

    Some of the member of the NHoS core team have worked or are working in the NHS or related projects and got together with the intent of providing a free and Open Source solution that can (and does) satisfy the needs of its users while removing the licensing costs and increase security.

    The idea was there even before the WannaCry ransomware wrecked havoc in some NHS Trusts but that incident pushed the team to start doing something about it and so they did without asking pretending anything from anybody.

    NHoS is a valuable asset available for free to the NHS for the NHS for the benefit of all the employees and subsequently for all the patients that are being treated by the NHS as it's the start of a project that could have saved hundreds of millions in licensing fees which could have been reinvested in providing actual care.

    We accept that Mr Stephen Winfield is just doing his job so the issue is with the management at the NHS which is aware of the project, they are probably aware that could change the status quo and bring huge benefits to the NHS but decided not to grant NHoS the use of a name and a logo, which could have only help in promoting the project internally, stating clearly the limits of its use.

    It could have been as simple as that.

    Think about it when someone complains the NHS has no money, few hundred millions saved in licensing could be a drop in the ocean, some say, (like many other ignored drops) but could also help in saving lives.

    Paolo Vecchi

    CIO (Chief Italian Officer) of the now disbanded NHoS

    1. JimC

      Re: NHoS means NHoS is not NHS

      The complications and implications of branding, naming, reputation and all the legal implications are so damn complicated that no sensible person goes anywhere near it unless their profession requires it. So changing from NHS to NHoS, when requested to stop using NHS, was, well, maybe not the best decision.

      And if you didn't go back and get specific clearance for NHoS from the people who objected to the previous titling *before* you started using it, that would be distinctly unsensible.

      Its been well said that everyone is an amateur away from their own field, and sometimes those of us who work in IT need to remember that.

    2. DontFeedTheTrolls

      Re: NHoS means NHoS is not NHS

      NHoS is not a product or a service that could benefit from similarity in the name or the logo or that could create confusion on the market that could lead to damage to the goodwill and reputation of the NHS.

      I'm sorry, but a quick google took me to the website and the presentation of the name in a font and style similar to the NHS giving the impression of association to the NHS.

      If you'd called yourself "Care-Code" and had a logo in a calligraphic style similar to a certain soft drink producer you would expect exactly the same legal take down even though you have no link to or benefit from soft drink production.

      Despite my negative comments about your presentation of the logo, can I commend you on your idea - in principle it was sound. Developing alternatives is a good thing, and I hope you find a way (and the will) to continue, albeit in an alternative format.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NHoS means NHoS is not NHS

      >NHoS is not a product or a service that could benefit from similarity in the name or the logo or that could create confusion on the market that could lead to damage to the goodwill and reputation of the NHS.

      Stop calling your product NHoS then. Stop using white italic capital text with the letters N, H and S on a blue background. It DOES cause confusion about whether this project is part of the NHS or not - the NHS was always going to slap you down for this.

      You've already been told to stop using NHSbuntu, but it's still right in the middle of your home page in the Youtube video:

      Clearly there's very little respect for intellectual property in the NHoS team. It's a shame because it sounds like you were trying to do something good.

    4. David Roberts

      Re: NHoS means NHoS is not NHS

      Sadly, this response is typical of the tunnel vision techie convinced that they are right regardless.

      The sensible option would have been to remove all NHS style branding after the first warning.

      But no, instead the name is changed but the underlying issue is still there, up front and very much in everyone's face.

      Tell ME what do you officious little petty time server? What do you know about anything?

      There, we've changed the name. Choke on it!



      Screw you guys, I'm off home.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hold on a minute!

    The "Brand" or the Trade Mark which is the legal side for the NHS brand, has to define the Clases under which it covers. These cover things like developing computer software, chemical, services etc.

    You can register a "NHS" trade mark as long it is not the same form or function if outside of the Classes they claim. It may be difficult but if you fight your case you can do it.

  11. ecofeco Silver badge

    Typical school ties mananglement

    "then you can see why we have no actual innovation, just bullshitters retweeting each other about a vague fantasy Blockchain and AI future,

    That about sums up the school ties, brown envelope, old boy network nicely.

  12. Fading

    The left hand doesn't know.....

    Where the fuck the right hand has got to never mind what it is doing.... I suspect this is the usual civil service incompetence camouflaged as bureaucracy where this cease and desist letter is from someone who didn't know what NHoS linux is but wants them to stop doing it anyway because NHS. Oh well when the next zero day MS flaw causes the NHS to lose their entire system I'm sure heads will roll.... or not.... promotions all round huzzah!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    use case?

    Where was the use case for this OS?

    It wouldn't be able to be used in an NHS Acute environment because of the variety of systems in use, none of which run on Linux.

    And without System supplier buy in how was this ever going to fly? Where are the Pathology, Pacs and prescribing systems that will run on this?

    I remember the original discussions on ElReg about this and some wag saying "can just use a virtual desktop".... so you would still be tied into Microsoft.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: use case?

      There are tens of thousands of desktops used by back-office staff throughout the organization, many of which only need a web browser, office software and email. Anything that doesn't need client apps could potentially run Linux. Admittedly this doesn't mean much for hospital desktops because of the client software on them.

      The day 1 goal isn't to kill off license fees though, it's to take the low hanging fruit and reduce Windows dependence over time. When Linux is an option platform agnosticism becomes a selling point, and that'll naturally push down the number of desktops needing Windows over the years.

      1. hilakata

        Re: use case?

        More use cases:

        1. 'Old' desktop hardware unable to support Windows 10. Depending on to which CIO / Trust you talk to, some organisations have up to 50% desktop hardware which is not able to run Windows 10, but more than perfectly fine to run Ubuntu 16.04, for example.

        Still don't agree with that use / business case because even though roughly 80% of all desktops in provider organisations are used for back office usage only?

        2. Multi desktop OS infrastructure increases organisational resilience in case of Wanna Cry et al. No, I am not opening the old chestnut here again in terms of this OS is better/safer than that one, but I think we all can agree that a) running your desktops on an old, non supported OS is not a good idea, and b) having a mix of different OS might be a good idea. (Fully aware that, this is just one (very) small part of the puzzle, but still.)

        Still don't agree with this use / business case, because 'nobody has Linux skills in my org' and 'there is no large organisation out there which could support us', even though large business like Canonical and Red Hat would be more than happy to assist you?

        3. Business Continuity measure. Run NHoS on an USB stick to maintain basic functionality in case of an available immediate response to an attack like Wanna Cry.

        Still don't agree with this use / business case? Well, we never set out to replace all of the desktop OSs in NHS land, but we started this to showcase a tangible, viable alternative for those NHS organisations which are crying out for a different option.

  14. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Sounds like

    BAU for those [redacted] at MS then. Sad really but getting the NHS off of Windows is just not going to happen anytime short of a nuclear war {see Icon}

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Money Talks...

    Any idea that impedes the upward flow of wealth...

    1. andy 103

      Re: Money Talks...

      It's not about getting things done. It's about the management of getting things done, in an inefficient way, so as to drag out the amount of time various people (at the management level) are required.

      If we got things done, and efficiently, there's a whole swathe of people who would suddenly find themselves on the scrap heap. Do you think they'd ever let that happen?

      This is basically how most large organisations / the government (particularly in the UK) actually operate.

  16. Ben1892

    I migrated my Dad to Linux last weekend, (from Win XP and Office 2010 to Linux Mint 18.3 and LibreOffice) you'd have thought his world had ended "because the font in my email signature has changed" - tbh I took that as a win, sat with him for a bit and talked him through all his snagging points.

    Overall it took me a day of setup and migration for his 3GB .pst plus files and a half-day of hand-holding to migrate him, he was talking about buying a Win 10 license (£100) and Office ( £160) because he couldn't get on with it.... multiply all of that that by a million....

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      The real figure of comparison is your daily rate. The NHS won't be paying £260 per seat just for Windows and Office.

    2. Lee D

      I bought a Windows tablet on Amazon for £100 that included Windows 10 and a year's worth of Office 365 (which has since only cost, what? About £5 a month to renew?).

      Though I have done any number of conversions in the past, and used Linux exclusively while managing Windows networks for at least 5 years, and even used open-source as part of business deployments, I don't think that the cost should really factor in at all. The price to most people to bother their friends enough to sort this lot out for them, plus the ongoing hassle, plus that they feel they "need" a new machine anyway, it just isn't worth the effort.

      Now consider how much he's going to run into stuff that he can't fix himself but would need to bother you for, plus things like compatibility (Outlook is just the start of it... I used Outlook for the first time in my life three years ago, and I've been doing IT support for nearly 20 years).

      LibreOffice is a viable alternative to Office. The browser wars came in and - pretty much - open source won them, even if Chrome is just a commercialised Chromium, there's still the option there. There are open OS and VM hypervisors if you want to maintain compatibility. Nobody dual-boots any more. If someone doesn't have money or needs something quick, I recommend open-source and even just freeware. Classic Shell is one of the best things I've used in years. But if they don't have the nous to cope with any idiosyncrasies that arise from its use, though? Chances are they're better off with an Office licence or whatever.

      Paying for software that does stuff that you could do for free is no different to paying someone to do DIY tasks that you could do yourself. Some people love the challenge and the learning and saving money. Other people just want the damn shelf to not fall down on their heads, it's not really their cup of tea, their time is more valuable, or they need it yesterday.

      I've come to accept that, in the end, the people who want to use free / open stuff naturally will when introduced to it anyway. Everyone else can pay. There's no need for hand-holding.

      (I'm an open-source programmer in my spare time, I patch my own kernels, I code my own utilities, I run 50% Linux servers in my day job, I run Linux servers and desktops in my personal life... I'm hardly biased here. Hell, I have a Crossover Office licence still).

      In my mind, we won on web browsers. We compete in home-office. We have a viable alternative in terms of operating systems (which, when you consider areas other than home PC, actually wins hands-down in terms of unit-sales). And everything has moved from "Win32 application" to "WebGL / HTML5 that runs anywhere" anyway. Even Office (+ Google Docs, etc.). We don't have any points left to prove. But we still won't convert everyone.

      The reasons for that are easy to see: Businesses can't sell you open-source, and so they never recommend it. People are happier to pay to have a company they can yell at, and pretty much I only know of Red Hat in terms of "open-source you can yell at" (who are both incredibly expensive, and won't do anything about your LibreOffice problems). People's time is often more expensive than a licence price.

      1. andy 103

        @Lee D : "in my mind"

        "In my mind..."

        The problem is, *your* mindset is in the minority. The vast majority of users don't know or give a shit whether they're using open source software or not.

        Open source has a massive image problem. It's not considered "commercial" - or dare I even say "expensive enough" - in comparison to offerings from the likes of MS. The people in management, who make decisions what to buy, would not be using "free" anything. Why? Because they get paid a shit ton of money and if someone comes along and says, well all this stuff is free and "community supported", what's the purpose of your job? Of course it isn't like that really, but that's the perception that these highly paid bureaucrats running organisations like the NHS actually have. Expensive is good.

        It also means they can say the risk of using it is lower ("we paid a lot so it must be secure/good") and that they can shift the blame ("we paid MS/whoever for this, let's pass the buck to them"). They can't do that so easily with Jonny Developer and Linux Mint, can they?

        1. dosida

          Re: @andy 103 : "Expensive is good."

          Umm... since when?

          And if expensive was good... would you be having all the trouble you had with WannaCry and other bloody malware? Would patients records be out in the "open"?

          No my friend, Open source does not have an image problem. Proprietary software does because it can't sell itself anymore and it needs corporate drones and government to survive. Open Source can do what proprietary can cheaper, better, and with better security than Windows. The NHS people just don't want to deal with the fact that they have to do some training and they might face user resistance like the usual "Oh it's too difficult and not shiny enough, I can't learn new things, I want my Windows Back" kind of complaint.

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: @Lee D : "in my mind"

          A colleague and I eventually got FreeBSD in official use in parts of the company we worked for (large UK/worldwide IT company - I even got it into HMRC via a contract the company had at the time.

          We initially met A LOT of resistance from management, mainly because it was free, and worse still "unprofessionally has 'free' in its name"

          In fact, we probably wouldn't have got anywhere if it wasn't for the fact my colleague ignored them, replacing a decrepit old unix server with FreeBSD and only telling them after a few weeks when they said they were impressed with the speed and stability of the new system - not realising it was an abandoned Pentium desktop, whilst the new £10,000 server which was meant to run NT was never made stable by the windows team, and was just sitting in a corner running a screen saver.

          This was back in the 90's though, and although it's better today, there is still a mindset of "more expensive is better" amongst non-technical management.

          Indeed, the same philosophy is often used in marketing generally

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      I migrated my Dad to Linux last weekend, (from Win XP and Office 2010 to Linux Mint 18.3 and LibreOffice) you'd have thought his world had ended "because the font in my email signature has changed"

      You should have waited until he'd had some particular software nasty encrypt his files or whatever.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I migrated my Dad to Linux last weekend, (from Win XP and Office 2010 to Linux Mint 18.3 and LibreOffice)


      he was talking about buying a Win 10 license (£100) and Office ( £160) because he couldn't get on with it....

      Instead he'll get a spare old PC some guy from the golf club is getting rid of, running unpatched XP & loaded with crap, which he'll hide from you because he won't want you to "upgrade" it.

      Just buy him a used W7 laptop, cheaper & less hassle for you both.

    5. d3vy

      " multiply all of that that by a million...."

      Last headcount came out at 1.5 Million... And Im willing to bet most of them dont have the time to sit for a day learning the ropes... :)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I always thought Microsoft would be the one to get them...

    ... if only for their blatant use of the Microsoft icons (including MS Office) which are, of course, copyrighted.

    1. Lee D

      Re: I always thought Microsoft would be the one to get them...

      I used to work for a school that was taken over to become an academy.

      In the process, they wanted to merge sites, ditch half the IT staff, etc. But not before they'd forced us into IT service agreements that would benefit the "superhead" and his golf-chums into perpetuity, by selling us everything from cabling and networking to software and hardware.

      One of the products they wanted to push was LightApp (I believe it's dead now). They exhibited us at BETT using it, but actually we already vetoed it and refused to touch it. It was a thin-client solution based on pushing X-Windows sessions into thin-clients, and then replacing everything on the backend (i.e. the IT team) with a remote server managed by the company in some god-forsaken third-world country. We vetoed it on many grounds, everything from "no local support" to "we don't have an internet connection reliable enough" to "data protection issues" to "security issues". Bear in mind they wanted hundreds of students to use those thin-client / remote-sessions for EVERYTHING they did, plus all the school admin, etc. It was just laughable.

      They allowed me to trial it as a pupil so that I could voice concerns and they could answer them. So I logged in via their thin-client, got full root access in a matter of seconds (no security at all, they just assumed you'd never look in their chmod 777'd folders for all the admin users), and left a document on their desktop detailing my objections.

      One* of those was: They sucked out the icons from MS Office and used them as icons for OpenOffice/Libreoffice (I think it was OO at the time, I can't remember), with Word, Excel etc. as the names. Prima facie trademark infringement.

      Needless to say, at the time it was the least of my worries, and the least of theirs trying to sell us such a junk piece of system, and they never saw a penny of it. I left soon after and I've never heard of them since.

      (*) Best one, though, was that they promised us it would "run any Windows program". I don't think they knew that I was a Linux programmer and so could understand what garbage that was - at the time, WINE was barely viable for an old version of Office, let alone anything else, and virtual machines weren't heard of in Windows circles.

      As part of this, we had "Ranger Suite" (since bought up by RM, so that's dead too), which is a Windows GPO deployment / user control program that shuts down rogue processes, forces the desktop settings, reports violations, allows screen-based remote control, etc. etc. and creates and manages users in AD. It was basically THE front-end security on a Windows machine. They said it would run under WINE and do everything it always did. I nearly died with laughter at the suggestion, and the salesman ran from the room and ran crying to the head saying I was being unprofessional. My boss then countered saying that the salesman is the one talking rubbish and didn't have an answer when proven that it would NEVER work (I doubt you could run that software now under WINE, it's so heavily AD/GPO/Registry/task-hook based), so nothing happened and we never saw him again.

      Two weeks later, the guys in charge of trying to move us to this setup offered me £600 a day to go around their other schools and help them sell it, on the basis of "he's smart, but lots of money should be enough to let us use that smartness against our other clients", I think. As my boss correctly predicted I would tell them at the time, and how I re-iterated when asked, "there wasn't enough money in the world that would make me lie and con schools out of money for a living".

      But it's funny that 15+ years later, people are still pulling the same tricks with no knowledge of how to do business.


    Good comments. COI I wrote the rage-quit blog.

    For what it's worth, on no occasion were we actually using the NHS logo or branding.

    We've had lots of engagement from CIOs in actual trusts wanting this software because it solves a massive M$ licensing headache for them, not just in terms of money but in terms of other licensing restrictions that M$ impose.

    So although the NHS central bods 'never asked for it', they massively need it and the grass roots were crying out for it. Except that nobody listens to the grass roots.

    1. Aqua Marina

      Bollocks 2.0

      I'm sorry... actually I'm not, I'll come out and say sir that you are talking absolute bollocks.

      The NHOS logo on your websites homepage is 75% the NHS logo. You have taken an existing logo and tweaked it. It's the equivalent of taking the Coke logo and changing the text to Cokee, whilst keeping the same font and colours.

      On your home page you have a video. The image even before I click it shows the 100% NHS logo, with the letters "b u n t u" appended after it. This would be no different to me taking the Disney logo, not changing the font or colours, but putting "buntu" after it and then trying to claim it's an entirely new logo with no disney logo or branding present.

      It's not often I call someone a complete liar, but sir, you are lying completely. You know it, I know it, the NHS know it and anyone that visits your website having looked at the following link knows it.

      TLDR: Marcus Baw is talking bollocks.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Save the managers

    I once worked as a web developer for a single page website that was commissioned by the NHS. We gave them a price and then someone fairly high up in the organisation advised us to add approx 150 hours of Project Management time into our quote. The reason for this, apparently, was because of the amount of paperwork/box ticking/reassuring that we needed to do with various people in their organisation. Bear in mind there are a whole bunch of people in the NHS whose job it is to be responsible for this exact sort of total bullshit. It's all about keeping their managers in high paid jobs by dragging out the most simple of tasks with meaningless convoluted processes and surrounding nonsense.

    I remember going to the pub with the other developers once we'd finished the job - which we'd made a huge profit on - laughing had we really got away with charging so much. But then we realised the irony that we'd *become* the very people we were lambasting...

    Posting this anonymously, for obvious reasons.

  20. keith_w Silver badge


    If I understand this correctly, a bunch of volunteers were attempting to build a Linux based operating system for the National Health Service. They decided to do this by themselves, without an agreement with the NHS and referred to their project using NH as part of the description, which the NHS took exception to.

    I am trying to figure out why no one else sees a problem with this process. 1. NHS is a MAJOR user of computer systems. If there is a problem with the OS, who do they turn to for support? The authors are volunteers, what if they get tired of supporting the issues and decline to provide further support? 2. If there is a problem with the OS, and a fix is required immediately, these volunteers are of limited number and employed (hopefully) at paying jobs. Will they be able to tell their current bosses, "Oh, I won't be in to work for a while as I have to fix a problem at NHS?" As we have seen with the Spectre issue, there are problems which are highly resistant to quick solution so how will the OS be sustainable

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF?

      "NHS is a MAJOR user of buildings. If there is a problem with the building/facilities/services, who do they turn to for support?"

      The security researcher er sorry gatehouse person in the car park at Carillion HQ. Carillion security folk were employed by Mitie who haven't gone bust. Not yet anyway.

      "problems which are highly resistant to quick solution so how will the OutSourcing be sustainable"

      This was pointed out a very long time ago but the penpushers saw an opportunity to improve their bank balances.

    2. andy 103

      Re: WTF?

      "I am trying to figure out why no one else sees a problem with this process"

      3. Migrating all of their machines to a different OS, and retraining people, and changing jobs that support the existing set up. Good luck with that.

      1. Hans 1

        Re: WTF?

        Migrating all of their machines to a different OS, and retraining people, and changing jobs that support the existing set up. Good luck with that.

        BS argument, like, did we trainin everybody from W7 to W8 ? Nope! W8 to W10 ? Same, nope ... yet, the ui changed dramatically at each step! Same for Office ...

        People go from iPhone to Android and back and usually do not have a problem ... anybody who needs training because [s]he cannot cope with a new OS is a useless dead-wood asset anyway ...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kinda Torn on this

    TBH, I'm not sure I want relatively critical functions, like doctors being able to get into their pc, being dependent on four volunteer nerds who might well drop off the radar for 6 weeks whenever the next beard competition is comes along.

    I can also see the DoH's view on protecting their trademarks. I'm no expert, but I guess you've got to be very careful, otherwise before you know it all sorts of companies that have ever done business with you start riding your trademarks, like the doorman setting up his own company "NHSecurity - Providers of security solutions to the NHS"

    Having said that, I do sympathise with the nerds. They are trying to show that you don't have to buy IBM (or MS) to not get fired, and as such, they are to be applauded. And you know what - if they start a little company providing services to the NHS on the back of it, so what, as long as they provide VFM.

    But we're talking about a government (and not just this one, but all previous ones in living memory) who spends something like 80% of our cash with about 6 huge, ineffective money-sucking conglomerates (Carillion, ehem).

    His parting shot about Blockchain and AI could have come from my own mouth. (Anybody else have 'Digital DNA' shouted at them on a daily basis?) .Probably like most on here, I see it on a daily basis, and it really p*sses me off because I'm never going to climb the career ladder because I can't bring myself to become one of them.

  22. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    I can't decide

    ...whether this is wild enthusiasts meeting the treacle of the real world for the first time and complaining about it or a brush-off by NHS which considers said enthusiasts as just another annoyance?

    (Sternly worded letters by the legal profession are not unusual; room-temperature IQ oozing out of them is testament to the sad quality of many people in that "profession". Just don't let this disturb you.)

  23. x 7

    Totally pointless project

    Virtually all the clinical systems run on Windows, and none of the suppliers have any intention to change.

    Whats the point of a card ID system running on Linux when none of the applications run on Linux?

    This just smacks of a handful of idealists who were trying to make the tail wag the dog. Good riddance.

    1. x 7

      I presume the (first) four thumbs down on my last post are the four egotists involved in this project?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My dentist (private, not NHS) was rather surprised when I told him that his new Windows10 based machine could quite easily send my xray scans and medical details over to the US if the underlying system decided that it was responsible in some way for a problem on the PC.

        He was equally shocked when I asked him how he was going to square that away with the GDPR legislation that's inbound like an Exocet missile.

        He didn't have any answers to hand, because he was completely unaware of these things - because he's a dentist. I can't imagine the situation being much different in NHS circles.

        I can just see the headlines now - discovery that confidential medical files have been sent to Microsoft and sold off by outsourced workers in <insert low paid drones' location here>.

    2. pacharanero

      no, not pointless

      1) "Virtually all the clinical systems run on Windows" Yes, correct

      2) Why? Because there is no Smart Card support for any other OS than Windows.

      3) Why is the no Smart Card support for OS other than Windows? Because there are no clinical systems that run on anything other than Windows.

      4) GOTO LINE 1

      1. Bent Metal

        "no smart card support"

        ...well, you could just Google and find smart-card tools and libraries for Linux; first few results had pcsc-tools (which I've used) and OpenSC (which I've not).

        Or just rant.

        1. PVecchi

          Re: "no smart card support"

          Not sure if you noticed but someone didn't just "google it", someone actually did something about it:

          Just saying.

    3. dosida


      So you'd rather label a project like that totally pointless when you know how much money has been spent in the NHS for such a system and that that staggering amount of money has been totally poured down the drain?

      You also would rather accept that the NHS a health organization has their own TRADEMARK department? What IS the bloody function of the NHS? Saving lives? or protecting trademarks and Intellectual property?

      Oh and as of 02:12am MST the last down vote was mine.

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Congratulations NHS England. You will get a shinnier, more polished new MS turd

    It will however remain, a turd.

  25. Jove Bronze badge


    Belly-aching because the real world is mean to them.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Snowflakes

      Tell you what, when your belly actually aches and you find the NHS has gone bust, let us know how you get on.

      It isn't just about this once incident, it's about the whole culture of waste and lack of vision/will to improve.

      1. SkippyBing

        Re: Snowflakes

        'Tell you what, when your belly actually aches and you find the NHS has gone bust, let us know how you get on.'

        If you're worried about the NHS going bust this is the wrong battle. This would save ~£100 Million a year in licensing, the NHS seems philosophically against recovering 4 or 5 times this amount from foreign users despite there even being a bespoke mechanism for doing this within the EU.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: Snowflakes

          What I said..

          It isn't just about this once incident, it's about the whole culture of waste and lack of vision/will to improve

          How you responded..

          If you're worried about the NHS going bust this is the wrong battle.

          It seems we are on the same side, just not communicating efficiently :)

          1. SkippyBing

            Re: Snowflakes

            D'oh! I would say charging foreign patients is possibly lower hanging fruit than retraining the NHS to use Linux but both support your point.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Snowflakes

      A bit like the vlogger I read about today who had been reduced to tears (in front of her camera so she could show her followers) because a hotel owner had refused to give her a free nights dinner, bed and breakfast in return for "positive social media coverage"

      1. fajensen Silver badge

        Re: Snowflakes

        Link? I’d like to see that.

        1. James Dore

          Re: Snowflakes

          Look for the White Moose Cafe on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, #bloggergate

  26. stephanh

    Sir Humphrey on Ubuntu

    HACKER: I have heard we could save millions by using this program called "Ubuntu".

    SIR HUMPHREY: Ah, the Open Source operating system.

    HACKER: You know about it?

    SIR HUMPHREY: I have indeed heard about it. I understand "Ubuntu" is a philosophical term in various African languages.

    BERNARD: It means: I don't know how to install Debian.

    HACKER: I don't care what it means. Shouldn't we have an Open Source policy?

    SIR HUMPHREY: We already have a policy on Open Source. In fact, we have an Initiative.

    HACKER: An Initiative. Is that similar to Under Active Consideration?

    SIR HUMPHREY: Not at all, Minister. The purpose of an Initiative, is, of course, to avoid any form of consideration in primo loco.

    HACKER: But why? Why don't we take action? We could save millions.

    SIR HUMPHREY: The point, is, of course, that taking action might lead to failure. Which would be inconvenient. However, not taking action might lead to accusations of wastefulness. Therefore, as you can see, the best course of action is to take no action, but rather to have an Initiative.

    HACKER: But then nothing will ever change!

    SIR HUMPHREY: Change is overrated, Minister.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pick your battles

    It's not (quite) as simple as managers not "getting" open source, being bought new Ferraris by Microsoft etc. In fact, large chunks of critical NHS systems run quite successfully on open source software these days:

    Linux On The Desktop is never going to be a widespread thing. So why would we think it'd take off in the NHS with all the additional bureaucratic inertia, multi-year contracts with suppliers, onerous support and standardisation requirements?

    It's good to see someone put some effort behind their principles. Can't fault them for that. But I also can't help but think the NHoS efforts would've been better directed into an area where open source is actually very competitive i.e. the data centre.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I couldn't actually believe they would call Microsoft "M$" on their blog, but they do.

    How spectacularly immature for a group who want to have themselves thought of as professionals.

    And as it seems they treat the NHS with the same degree of contempt it isn't surprising when they find they aren't exactly welcomed with open arms, have the book thrown at them.

    I have little sympathy for their bleating. Sure; it was a good idea. But if they embark on their own venture without the buy-in of those they claim to be wanting to help they shouldn't have expected to get anything but the cold shoulder.

    This is not the way to deal with professional organisations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: M$

      I thought M$ was an accepted abbreviation for money grubbing shit-kickers that'll sell you up the river just as fast as they can hijack your system?

  29. Robert D Bank

    NHS Brand value

    given the determination to run the NHS into a wall so the inevitable privatisation becomes more palatable (forced by no choice) for the masses, the NHS brand will probably have a massive amount of value for the massive insurance or whatever corporation that will probably inherit it. Having some upstart like this having anything to do with it just wouldn't do, would it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NHS Brand value

      "given the determination to run the NHS into a wall"

      The basic problem is historically it appears that increase in funding required annually to keep the NHS running has been greater than the increase in GDP (people blithely say getting back to "the long term norm of annual 4% increase in NHS funding" will solved everything) so eventually the sums are just not going to add up. As a short term fix you can increase population of younger working people who will "pay more in taxes than they take out" ... but this is just a Ponzi scheme and will come back to bite when all the "young postive contributers" start requiring pensions in 20-30 years time.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the definition of a pioneer?

    They're the one who got an arrow in the back....

    'You hear a lot about innovation in the NHS, but this if this is the way innovators are treated – and with the full might of DH Legal against an unfunded volunteer organisation – then you can see why we have no actual innovation, just bullshitters retweeting each other about a vague fantasy Blockchain & AI future, while the NHS burns for lack of basic functionality'

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  31. Updraft102

    "In fact I now strongly suspect that the reason we were getting any engagement at all at these levels was in order to strength NHSE negotiating position with Microsoft..."

    Possibly. It's why AOL bought Netscape during the browser wars-- AOL was the world's biggest ISP (such that it was) at the time, and they used a modified IE as the base for their proprietary browser. It seems that MS wanted a piece of the action of all of those AOL CDs being distributed in magazines, in the mail without magazines, in grocery stores, and by being thrown out of airplanes onto the unsuspecting neighborhoods. Ok, not that last one, but it was almost to that point.

    That was when AOL purchased the nearly worthless remains of Netscape, long the chief competitor of IE. Amazingly, right after that happened, they managed to negotiate a zero-fee perpetual license to include IE code within their AOL browser/client. In an even bigger coincidence, AOL shut down Netscape for good almost before the ink on that agreement with Microsoft was dry.

    Okay, maybe 'coincidence' isn't the right word.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You know how many of the 400 systems we look afte at our NHS Acute Trust would run on this desktop? Zero

    Where are the IT staff with Linux skills we would need to support an entire estate? My costs would go up as I wouldn’t be able to employ enough Linux trained staff.

    Where are things that make a clinicians life easier like a proper single sign on solution?

    Have any of the four people involved in this doomed OS ever supported a desktop environment at scale?

    Need I go on?

  33. teknopaul Silver badge

    silly name I'll grant...

    But if ever there was an org that needed an

    apt-get upgrade

    It was the NHS

  34. lesession

    Good riddance

    Well if the sloppy phrasing and occasional homophone in their press release is any indication of the quality of their work, good luck to them.

    This is healthcare you're mucking about with, people's lives depend on this stuff.Going in with the typical FOSSflake 'M$' attitude, failing to recognise the difference between 'addition' and 'addiction', and using professional language like 'bullshit' all point to the mindset of this operation, and it's one I wouldn't want within a million miles of any computer running any bit of software in any hospital I was connected with.

    Good riddance, go back to arguing about which distro has the best splash screen.

  35. Qwertius

    I bet some smarmy Public Servant will be given an OBE for this little bit of theft.

  36. Mark 75

    The Reg article is mis-leading - simply click-bait.

    4 developers started using the NHS logo etc. in their own software without permission from the NHS. They got told to stop. How is this the fault of the NHS/DH?

    1. Jason Bloomberg

      "Thanks for the free work" would be better phrased as "Thanks for all that unsolicited effort you put in after you unilaterally decided to do something no one actually asked you to do".

      I don't have a problem with them doing what they did. It's the entitlement they appear to have that this would be adopted and the 'throwing their toys out of the pram' annoyance that it hasn't been which grates. They aren't the first to find they aren't universally considered heroes, aren't thanked for their efforts, and won't be the last.

      It seems they weren't quite prepared for the knock-backs and frustrations which trying to change the world brings, thought that just by doing it things would change. Welcome to Reality 101.

  37. msknight

    They can only use that once...

    Come the next renewal, they won't be able to pull the same stunt, and then microsoft will screw them to the wall.

  38. Tom Melly

    Not sure about this

    Having a plausible alternative when negotiating with MS seems like a good strategy. Sucks to be the linux guys though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not sure about this

      What was the plausible alternative? must have missed that

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice idea but...

    Ignoring the Linux vs Windows, open-source vs proprietary for a moment. We have an NHS estate with around 20000 users/desktops and 1000 servers, all running some flavour of Windows and Office.

    There's a point in 2020 where the desktop/server OS versions become unsupported and another one later in that year where the current Office suite goes the same way.

    Regardless of what we intend to use we have to replace all of this stuff in the next 18-24 months.

    So we have a choice. Do we go to open source for the desktop, server and office suite or stay with the current Microsoft products that we have. Bear in mind that even if we swap the desktop out, you still have to pay Server CALs for end users to access things like Active Directory.

    If the NHSE can negotiate a new EWA with Microsoft that gives me all the elements that I need to replace what I have, then I can just get on and replace like-for-like.

    If I went open-source (which is a commendable goal) then I have to do all of the work that I have to do in the Microsoft variant, but now I have to identify new applications to replace Wintel ones that we currently have. We need to test all of these for interoperability with systems. We need to find *nix drivers for the shonky printer that is lurking in an office that is part of some vital environment. And we have to do this with a team of staff that currently have little to no Linux experience, where our external third line support is 4 volunteers?

    I know it's a circular argument - we only have skills in Microsoft because we only have Microsoft - however for 90% of IT departments that is going to be the reality, like it or not.

    As other posters have mentioned, the NHS is highly risk-averse. The risk to do something like NHoS now - given the impending 2020 deadlines - is just too great. That's why NHS Digital is looking to create a new EWA as there will be >1m users in the same boat.

    However, once that next milestone is out of the way and there is no looming deadline to meet, then *that* would be the time for the NHS to look at open source alternatives. Although I think by that time the desktop will start to matter less as systems become "cloudy" and browser-based.

    1. PVecchi

      Re: Nice idea but...

      I guess you are right.

      You are a techie specialised on Microsoft stuff so why would you have to learn something else.

      The NHS will renew the contract with Microsoft so hundred of millions will be spent in licencing and updates, some of the stuff won't work as there is no driver & MS isn't going to develop a new one for you but at least you will be able to say is not your fault.

      That upgrade process will take several years and hundred of millions must be spent on new hardware and training personnel which is not use to the new version of Windows and the software that will run on it.

      In a few years time nobody will want to even look at changing things as stuff more or less works.

      We'll get near the renewal time, new proposals to break the lock-in will flow in, a team will decide to lead by example, NHS will say "that sounds like a great idea, show me a prototype and give it a name I can use to promote it as if it were an NHS project", working platform sorted and tested but used just to get a small discount from Microsoft.

      Rinse and repeat.

      The same happens in many other organisation. You know it and we know it but some try to do the right thing instead of the most convenient one.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A little insight there how the NHS operates as a set of little fiefdoms, no wonder it's messed up.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux ecosystem is utter shite

    Whatever people think of MS software, the craft that comes out like OpenOffice and Gimp is just utter, low quality crap. There is no reason why Apple or Google couldn't provide an OS and developer network for NHS - there is no way a bunch of open source communities can get their shit together to create a Linux ecosystem fit for the NHS. And fundamentally, medical software developers do not want to develop for Linux because they do not want GNU licensing issues.

  42. StuntMisanthrope

    It's the hardware.

    Forget about the desktop, there's too much reliance on productivity suites, accountancy and identity stuff. However an open-source health OS for all the expensive machines, that do something important, based on universal standards, security and upgrade procedures may well stop the next disaster reoccuring and all the locked in bullshit. Why would you want to use a desktop OS (that's another argument) on a single function (within pathological terms) anyway. You could even offer tax incentives to software providers for helping society...

  43. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    "Dyke pointed to figures from Digital Health Intelligence that £100m is spent on licensing every year. "

    Luckily that will be recouped in just two days, after Brexit.

  44. DBJDBJ

    Server, perhaps. Desktop? No.

    After 2 or 3 years after last experience I had to install and use Ubuntu few weeks ago on one desktop, and use it .. It was worse than ever.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Little sympathy here - they were told the real cost & issues were CAL/manageability but plowed on regardless. What the NHS & other Public sector bodies need is for Government to mandate open standards for all systems and applications.

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