Open Source software is much like the NHS. Universally accessible and free to use at the point of need.

You can download and use Open Source software without incurring any licence costs. You are then free to make changes to it, add features, and to pass your modified version on to others.

"The NHS is an altruistic body and Open Source mimics the altruistic nature from an IT perspective"

Patrick Highland Programme Manager - Technology and Innovation at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

How does Open Source software benefit the NHS?

There are three key reasons why Open Source software is a great fit for the NHS.

  1. Ability to customise
  2. Cost savings
  3. Avoids vendor lock-in

Customisation

It may be a cliche, but the only thing that's constant these days is change.

A new procedure here, a new system to integrate with there. Before you know it, tasks end up needing spreadsheets and manual workarounds, taking more time and increasing errors.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Having open access to the source code enables software to be customised to fit the way your NHS organisation works, so as your needs change it can be modified and extended to suit.

Cost savings

Open Source solutions are more cost-effective than proprietary alternatives, because the software can be rolled out to any number of users without payment of license fees.

Following the public money, public code principle, improvements and innovations made by one NHS Trust can be freely shared with others. This reduces duplication of effort, speeds up development, and allows Trusts to pool resources to further reduce costs.

For these reasons the NHS service standard recommends making new source code open.

Avoiding lock-in

Most proprietary software locks you in to the original vendor. Without access to view and modify the source code yourself, there's only one place to go for changes and fixes.

Open Source software frees you from these restrictions. Any experienced supplier can support and maintain an Open Source system, putting choice and control in the hands of NHS stakeholders.

With no licence costs, no vendor lock-in, and the opportunity for continuous development and improvement, implementing Open Source solutions ensures that the NHS receives maximum value for money from public investment.