The NHS Connecting for Health website has a press release about their new £21.8m agreement with infrastructure and software services supplier Novell. It says that ‘the new agreement will save the NHS up to £75 million over three years compared to previous arrangements’ and that it ‘reduces the barriers for the NHS in using Open Source, as it secures access to an enterprise class Open Source platform along with, more importantly, affordable support, maintenance and training to help our NHS staff make the transition’.
Further details on the agreement and comments from Richard Granger can be found in the press release
What this will actually mean in practice remains to be seen; the release has little real detail and seems to be pure marketing-speak.
Two more articles in continuing coverage of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) computerization effort: One article from the BBC states: ‘…Recent reports from the National Audit Office “graphically illustrated” the need for improved information about equipment, bed management and hospital acquired infections, said the Tory MP [David Davis]. “Time and again, we have seen poor design, poor implementation and weak cost control,” he said. Link courtesy of Richard Shilling. The second article in Computer Weekly is an editorial about open source and the dangers of NHS cozying up to Microsoft: ‘…The Government will be taking a huge risk – should it be unsatisfied with the projects, will it be easy to move to another supplier? And how much would such a move cost? Microsoft’s track record on producing technology that can be easily integrated with that of its competitors raises an ominous spectre here… Link courtesy of Dave Scott.
Dr Adrian Midgley, Dr Douglas Carnall and Colin Smith have an article (abstract only, subscription required) in the British Journal of Healthcare Computing: ‘ Proprietary software places purchasers at their suppliers’ mercy for support and customisation; lock-in is the rule. Open-source software ensures that code is freely available for anyone to download and use. Software businesses that tailor and service the software for organisations can still be profitable but will free users from supplier lock-in. Several NHS organisations are already deploying open-source software with considerable satisfaction. Open-source development methods have yet to be widely used in the healthcare domain, but there are many lessons for the developers of applications. Thanks to Dave Scott for this link.
The Guardian is reporting on Bill Gates upcoming trip to Britain: ‘Alan Milburn, the health secretary, has enlisted Bill Gates to help pull the health service out of the stone age in information technology. The Microsoft chairman will fly to Britain this week to tell chief executives of NHS trusts how to develop integrated systems to produce improvements in the speed and quality of patient care…’ It will be interesting to see what happens if MS goes into this in a big way since historically healthcare has swallowed one health IT reformer after another.