Microsoft has signed a "landmark" agreement with the UK's National Health Service to make Microsoft 365 available to some 1.2 million healthcare staff in England.
The deal, which NHSX CEO Matthew Gould said represented savings "of hundreds of millions of pounds", will see Microsoft's cloud platform rolled out to NHS hospital trusts, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and data teams to improve security and connectivity between organizations.
The result will be "a truly joined-up NHS," NHS Digital said.
The deal, struck jointly between Microsoft, NHS Digital and the health service's NHSX tech strategy unit, will provide healthcare staff with access to a range of Microsoft productivity and collaboration tools, including Microsoft Teams.
Teams, which has been used by NHS organizations to help them coordinate responses around COVID-19, will be made available to GPs, consultants, nurses, therapists, paramedics and support staff to help them collaborate through messaging, audio and video calls.
Additional software tools offered through the deal will help NHS organizations improve productivity and strengthen cyber security across healthcare services, NHS Digital said.
Announcing the agreement, Matt Hancock, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said adopting up-to-date digital tools and platforms was "crucial for a modern-day NHS."
The Health Secretary added: "We have seen incredible, innovative uses of technology throughout the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic and this new deal with Microsoft will pave the way for that to continue by ensuring we get the basics right."
The deal between Microsoft and the NHS's tech and digital arms builds on a 2018 agreement that saw Windows 10 offered to NHS organizations to help them shore up cybersecurity.
It came less than a year after the WannaCry ransomware outbreak in May 2017, which crippled NHS systems after locking staff out of computers. A later report from the National Audit Office concluded that the impact of WannaCry could have been limited had more NHS organizations been running up-to-date software.
The timing of the new agreement coincides with the renewal period for Microsoft licenses at a number of NHS organizations in England, and ensures organizations that have existing arrangements with Microsoft can benefit, NHS Digital said. It will run for a minimum of three years until April 2023.
Sarah Wilkinson, CEO at NHS Digital, said: "I'm delighted that we have been able to conclude these negotiations with Microsoft successfully. This deal will allow the NHS to derive productivity and collaboration benefits from the use of numerous Microsoft products and will strengthen cybersecurity across the system."
The value of the agreement was not disclosed. An NHS Digital spokesperson said that total costs and savings would vary between individual organizations depending on the licences they chose to purchase, but added that the agreement presented "the most cost-effective option" for any NHS organisation that wished to continue using Microsoft software.
Matthew Gould, CEO at NHSX, said the agreement with Microsoft would ensure the NHS delivered "the best possible value for taxpayers".
He added: "This deal with Microsoft represents a saving of hundreds of millions of pounds. This is a direct result of negotiations led jointly by NHSX and NHS Digital. It means staff will have access to the best possible collaboration and productivity tools, and that our cyber defenses are as strong as possible."
Cindy Rose, CEO, Microsoft UK, said: "Since COVID-19, the NHS has rapidly accelerated its adoption of digital tools to enable clinicians and support staff to perform their life-saving work more effectively.
"This agreement ensures NHS organizations across England have access to modern productivity tools and solutions necessary to delivering better patient outcomes now and in the future."