Microsoft and the NHS: what went wrong?

Microsoft UK’s John Coulthard, Senior Director Healthcare and Life Sciences, has posted a comment on the decision by the NHS not to renew its EWA (Enterprise Wide Agreement) with Microsoft. His summary:

The bottom line is the NHS benefited from the productivity gains delivered through a suite of Microsoft software worth in excess of £270m per year. The actual cost to the NHS was £65m per year, delivering a saving of saving of £205m to the NHS and British taxpayers. For the next three years the cost would have risen to £85m as the NHS deploys more and more technology while the National Programme rolls out.

Software supplier whinging at loss of a lucrative contract? Of course; but at the same time I’d be interested to know whether this results in greater expense for UK taxpayers, of which I am one, and what is the real reason for the contract’s termination.

I’d like to think the decision is part of a strategy to end vendor lock-in and promote both competition and use of open source systems; but the truth may be less inspiring.

What are we to make of this report in Computer Weekly which says:

“Out of the blue, the Cabinet Office rejected the cut-down version of the renewal," said a source. "The noise from the top is that they are not sure national agreements work. It will be down to the trusts to make sure they are fully licensed."

One of the odd things reported is that the cut-down agreement was to have cost £21m, I presume annually; but the government is paying an immediate £50m to Microsoft:

The Cabinet Office did agree to pay Microsoft about £50m to cover software used in the previous agreement that was not licensed, but attributed the spend to the last administration’s budget.

That does not sound like a strategy to save money, when you consider the licensing costs now facing NHS trusts who no longer have an agreement in place.

Now, it is possible that the long-term effect will be to reduce lock-in, though that is optimistic; I do not know if any NHS trusts are actually planning to move away from Microsoft’s platform and even if they are, it is not something that can be done quickly. Another scenario is that most of them make their own agreements with Microsoft, the total cost of which exceeds what the EWA renewal would have cost.

Still, the outcome will probably please Google which has its own idea about how to provide IT for healthcare.

Nothing I’ve read really explains the decision and I would like to know more.

2 thoughts on “Microsoft and the NHS: what went wrong?”

  1. I strongly suspect that a big part of this may be the application of a “someone else’s problem” field.
    This will move the cost out of central government budget which means that dept can show a saving.
    The fact that that cost is still there but on individual Trusts budgets is not an issue to them as it is reported differently.
    There are few more devious minds than civil servants faced with a budget cut.

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