Open-Source Software: Could This Be The Glue That Holds The NHS Together?

Geraint Lewis | Nuffield Trust | October 6, 2010

Good news stories don’t come around that often for Connecting for Health, the beleaguered national IT programme for the National Health Service in England.  But I think I might have found one in the making.  This month marks the mid-way point in a two-year project to build an “open-source community” for the NHS. 

For the uninitiated, open-source software is different from the “closed source” software that the health service typically uses because with open-source, the code in which the software was written is made open and public. With open-source software, anyone can scrutinise this code, borrow bits of it, adapt it, join it up to other bits of code, and use the new version for any purpose they like.

Open-source software has a number of potential advantages.  For example, it promotes collaboration and integration between software systems, has the potential to improve continually through an almost Darwinian process, and it can sometimes radically reduce IT costs.