Windows 7 overruns NHS Scotland

Open sourcers sent homeward to think again

NHS Scotland has snubbed open source alternatives to re-engage with Microsoft after signing an Enterprise Agreement covering the deployment of Windows 7 on nearly 100,000 desktops.

The three year contract penned this summer is estimated to be worth around £5m in total with 17 of the 22 health boards in Scotland signing up.

The deal was negotiated by Microsoft large account reseller Trustmarque and is forecast to save NHS Scotland around £1m over its lifetime, sales and marketing director Angelo di Ventura said in a statement.

"This is a good deal for Microsoft, Trustmarque and the Health Service in Scotland," he told The Channel, adding that "the users were driving this decision to go back to Microsoft".

Mark Smith, director of healthcare, life sciences and health solutions group at Microsoft UK, told The Channel that 17 Component Enterprise Agreements were inked with the Scottish NHS Boards for Windows.

"At a time of financial constraint in the public sector, technology can play an important role in helping to improve efficiency, reduce costs and ultimately improve patient care," he said in a tinned statement.

"We look forward to working with the NHS Scotland on this implementation, which we believe will have a positive impact on patient services," he added.

The last EA between Microsoft and NHS Scotland ended in 2008, say sources.

"[NHS Scotland] didn't see the value in an EA, they felt that perhaps they'd been sold something they didn't need so when it came to renewing the decision was taken to freeze it," said the source.

Fast forward to April 2011 and NHS Scotland's IT staffers that were working on a Future Desktop Strategy sought industry input on the roadmap for the infrastructure of 98,000 desktops.

A core component of this programme was to consider adopting open standard desktops as a potentially cheaper option than proprietary tech.

The health organisation invited 80 suppliers to discuss and build units under an Open Desktop Proof of Concept Exercise, NHS Scotland documents seen by The Channel show.

Some 23 suppliers returned questionnaires out of which seven were chosen to deepen talks with the health body including ACR IT Solutions, Atos, Google, HP, Canonical Ltd, Molten Technologies and Microsoft.

As part of the Open Source consortium, integrator Tactix4 put together a response for NHS Scotland but didn't make it into the final round.

"They [NHS Scotland] were interested in seeking alternatives but were always going to go with Microsoft," said Tactix4 director Rob Dyke, "there are 98,000 end client points in NHS Scotland running some form of Microsoft".

Open source firebrand Mark Taylor, boss at Sirius, was "disappointed" NHS Scotland had not opted for alternatives to proprietary software.

"I suspect this was like the Newham [Council] strategy to flirt with open source people and get a discount from Microsoft," he claimed.

Sources don't expect the Microsoft and NHS Scotland EA to have much bearing on the government's attitude to central procurement deals south of the border.

In June 2010 the Cabinet Office decided not to renew an £80m EA with Microsoft across England for 800,000 desktops, deciding there was no commercial justification.

NHS National Services Scotland did not respond to calls for comment. ®

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