Thursday, May 22, 2008

Microsoft bribes the NHS

Thanks to Dr Penna I learn that every NHS employee can purchase Microsoft Office 2007 for £ 17.00 for use in their own home ...

Dr Penna thinks he is onto a good thing. And Microsoft's NHS website has discounts on other MS products for NHS employees. All you have to have is an NHS email address (oh shurely I can hack that ,,,).

Let us look at this in more detail on the Microsoft-NHS website ...

Microsoft has a Software Licensing Enterprise Agreement with NHS England (with similar but separate agreements with NHS Scotland and NHS Wales). The current agreement runs until 2010 and covers a range of Windows software including the Vista operating system (both Business and Enterprise editions) and a range of Microsoft products including Office. It also includes Client Access Licenses (CAL) to Windows Server and SQL database software but not the server and database software itself.

What does a CAL mean? Well, no desktop workstation will have server or database software installed on it. However, a desktop workstation within the NHS will probably need to access a server for networking and an SQL database server (for Summary Care Records?). To access a server, the desktop workstation needs a CAL. Ok, so Microsoft's licensing model screws you twice ...

But the intimation here is that the NHS is using Windows servers (Microsoft server and database software licenses are sold under a separate agreement entitled the Select Licensing programme - whatever the fuck that is). For the storage of confidential patient data, the Summary Care Record, for NHS Choices “Choose and Book” etc etc.

Why didn't Connecting for Health opt for far more secure Unix servers and Linux desktops? Or even Unix servers with Windows desktops?

Given the government's recent record on the loss of confidential data on Joe and Jane's data, given what I have learned today of Microsoft's involvement, and what I already knew of its appalling security record, my confidence in the development of the NHS Connecting for Health project has lessened x-fold.


1. FAQ: “What is the NHS paying for this agreement?”

Answer: “The NHS is paying a fixed amount per year. The number of devices each year increases to cover an expected growth in the number of users. Microsoft has provided a substantial discount to the NHS based on the volume of devices covered and length of the agreement.”

Does anyone know? Can anyone tell me how to access government contracts or do I have to write a Freedom of Information Act request?

2. Certain Department of Health, but not part of the NHS, institutions are included in the Enterprise Agreement.

3. fyi Dr Penna the software does not belong to you. At 65 years old you will be without a word-processor and email client. “... so should they leave the NHS then they are required as per the terms and conditions on the web site to uninstall and return it to their Trust.”


Srepen said...

I have read your post and felt huge amount of negative tone about the fact that NHS uses Microsoft. I am supporter of Open source software and would encourage lot of people to use and contribute. But it does not mean that what all Microsoft produces is trash. For e.g. Microsoft Office is far superior to Open Office in my view, Windows is house hold term. May be UNIX servers are superior to windows servers, still lot of corporations still use windows servers, why is that. Cost differences are huge between them and if NHS want to save money by using open source then it is good for NHS. Every one must know that converting to open source have their own risks, most open source software do not have warranty. So if any drastic incident happens where can you go for answers?

In my opinion Microsoft makes decent software, and as one of successful and hard working company they are entitled to sell their software.

In your post you said Microsoft bribes NHS, but you don’t substantiate how. I don’t understand why buying all licences is wrong, especially when every thing is coming as bulk under one umbrella, which is cheaper option rather than buying each individual product licence by each trust which is expensive.

You may disagree with what I feel but Microsoft is a company and it can sell its products way they and their buyers agree together. You can’t call that bribery, It is Capitalism my friend.

Angus said...

Srepen - many thanks for the comment. I don't get to many and it is great to see such a well-argued reply.

Some points (and I may well be repeating the original post:

1. Unless you are a power user OpenOffice is totally equal to MSOffice.

2. Support - I would not expect the NHS to convert to unsupported software. High level versions of Linux (Red Hat, Suse etc) and Unix (Sun etc) are supported commercially.

3. The NHS Connect programme is way behind schedule, suffers from glitches, is widely resisted etc etc.

4. The UK govt.'s reputation on IT security is notorious and not improving ... latest story they want to create a massive DB of all our emails and phonecalls!

5. MS offering free software does smell - and is a "false ploy" given you have to give up the software when you leave/retire from the NHS. It might be called capitalism but "bribery" plays a part in capitalism - BAE/Saudi affair?

6. A subject I didn't touch on in this post - Open Source is far more appropriate to the developing world. Here the level of virus-infected, spyware-rife pirated MS software is astounding!

... why do the UK NHS and ED domains filter out/prohibit ?

Again thanks for the comment.