End of Microsoft and Novell deals worries health CIOs...
CIOs in the NHS could face additional software costs after the Department of Health (DoH) decided not to renew licence agreements for a range of Microsoft and Novell software and services used by NHS staff in England.
The non-renewal of the enterprise-wide agreements (EWAs) means local health trusts will now have to pay for most upgrades to Microsoft or Novell software, at a time when trusts are being asked to slash budgets to help meet the government's £20bn DoH savings target.
David Boakes, associate director of IT with NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, said the DoH is pushing the financial burden of software licensing onto trusts: "There is a lot more cost coming down to local trusts," he said.
"Like most of the NHS, Microsoft software is the strategic platform for our servers and desktops, whether it is SharePoint or SQL databases. This is an additional financial burden and it is not helpful at a time when we have also got to make significant financial savings."
The Microsoft EWA provides licences for a range of desktop software for up to 900,000 users. When it was agreed the then health minister John Hutton said it would deliver £330m of savings over previous software licensing arrangements with Microsoft.
A carry-over agreement from the EWAs means local health trusts will receive licences that will let them continue to use most of the Microsoft and Novell software already deployed.
But trusts may find they need to buy additional licences, as the number of licences that carry over from the end of the EWAs may be insufficient to cover all the software in use. Trusts also face having to audit all their software.
Andrew Fenton, CIO of NHS Oxfordshire, said: "The impression I am getting is that many people are worried - the local trusts do not benefit from the savings being made centrally but are instead facing an additional financial and workload burden.
"Auditing software licences involves staff time and if you do not have software asset management software you are going to have to purchase that. When health trusts do an audit, there are likely to be exposed areas that need licensing that won't be covered by the roll-over of licences. At the moment any expenditure that does not have direct patient benefit is a concern."
Fenton said trusts could also find themselves needing to license Microsoft-based software for use with new devices - for example, for accessing the NHS Mail email system using a smartphone.
The DoH says ending the EWA is consistent with government ambitions to give local health trusts more control over what computer systems and software they buy, as set out in the Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS whitepaper earlier this year.
"Investment decisions will be taken at a local level in line with the proposals set out in the whitepaper," a DoH spokeswoman said in a statement.