The NHS is aiming to save £75m over three years as part of a new software deal with Novell that will make it easier for health service IT departments to switch to open source.
The £21.8m enterprise-wide deal, signed by NHS Connecting for Health (CfH), covers security and access control, desktop management and Novell's Linux-based open enterprise server. This deal is, however, dwarfed by Microsoft's £500m deal to put its software on 900,000 National Health Service computers, which was announced in November 2004.
Richard Granger, director-general of NHS IT, said the deal reduces the burden on NHS Trusts and organisations who would otherwise have to negotiate terms separately.
He said in a statement: "We have punched the bottom out of pricing arrangements that have previously been suffered by the NHS and the wider public sector. Local NHS organisations will be able to make local money go further for patient benefit as a result of them directly benefiting from the savings this deal delivers."
The agreement will also give NHS IT departments and their suppliers the opportunity to evaluate and use Novell's SuSE Linux enterprise server.
Granger said: "This deal also 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."
Novell will also provide consulting services to the NHS and Novell CEO Jack Messman said the agreement adds up to "a more efficient NHS and a better deal for the taxpayer".