Friday, October 17, 2008

FOIA - Microsoft and the DoH

The reply ...

Our ref: DE00000356344

15 October 2008

Dear Mr Gascoigne,

Thank you for your request for information, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’), about Microsoft as a supplier of IT products and services to the NHS, and as a supplier to NHS Connecting for Health in connection with the Summary Care Record (‘centralised patient record system’). Your request was received on 7 October and it has been passed to me for reply.

Please find answers to each of your requests in turn below:

(a) How much the NHS is paying Microsoft for licensing of Microsoft's Operating Systems and any support services directly provided by Microsoft?

The terms of the Enterprise Wide Arrangement (EWA) negotiated between NHS Connecting for Health and Microsoft on behalf of the NHS preclude our revealing the pricing details to parties outside of Government. This proviso reflects the fact that the information is commercially sensitive information, and as such is exempt under section 43 of the Act, which exempts information whose disclosure would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person. However, I can confirm that the National Audit Office have accepted that the prices the NHS is paying under the EWA are lower than those available under other agreements with Microsoft negotiated by the Office of Government Commerce on behalf of Government departments.

Section 43 is subject to the public interest test. Considerations I have taken into account in deciding the balance of public interest in relation to your request are that disclosure would b e consistent with policies for open government and accountability for public expenditure. Disclosure would also illustrate value for money in the context of the National Programme for IT. Considerations for withholding the information are that disclosure is likely to mean that Microsoft would not give the NHS such preferential pricing in any future arrangement. Furthermore, other suppliers are likely to become wary of offering NHS Connecting for Health or the NHS (and potentially other public sector organisations) exceptionally favourable terms in future if they perceive the risk that they too may have their lowest prices revealed in response to ad hoc requests for their disclosure. Hence, the net effect of revealing these particular price details is likely to be to increase future costs for the public sector/the taxpayer.

(b) How many discrete contracts does the NHS have with Microsoft? If more than one, what products/services are provided under each contract and what is the cost of each contract?

(c) If 3rd-part vendors are contracted to provide support services for Microsoft products, how many such contracts exist, how are they administered, and what is their total value?

Neither the Department of Health nor NHS Connecting for Health collect information about the number, nature or value of any such separate agreements.

I should explain that the NHS is not a single organisation or legal entity. In addition to contracts held centrally on behalf of the NHS as a whole, each NHS organisation is at liberty to enter into further bilateral agreements with Microsoft or its commercial partners for products or services to meet their local needs without the knowledge, or need for approval, of either NHS Connecting for Health or the Department of Health.

(d) What operating system is planned to be used on fileservers hosting the centralised patient record system, and with which core-database software is it being implemented?

I can confirm that the Summary Care Record sits on servers running the Sun Microsystems Open Solaris 10 ("Unix") operating system, in an Oracle 10g database.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write to the Section Head of the Department’s Freedom of Information Unit at the following address:

Freedom of Information Unit

Department of Health

Room 334b

Skipton House

80 London Road


If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner (ICO) for a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the Department. The ICO can be contacted at:

The Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane




Yours sincerely,

Stuart Craig

Department of Health

Room 317

79 Whitehall

London SW1A 2NS

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