Medical professionals call on U.K. government to consider open source software for NHS IT systems

Rosalie Marshall | | May 23, 2012

The health sector has begun debating how best to design and procure a new NHS IT system, with some leading professionals arguing for the use of open source software to lower costs and improve customisation. The debate comes in the wake of the government's decision to dismantle the failed £12bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT) and the publication this week of the government's new NHS Information Strategy.

Carl Reynolds, a doctor at Chelsea and Westminster Foundation Trust and founder of Open Health Care UK, called for health sector officials to become more "enlightened" before designing the IT system that will support the NHS. "We need to make sure we understand the technology when we buy it, and we are not simply purchasing a black box of software," he said, speaking at a Westminster Forum event attended by V3.

"If we use open source software, we can understand the code so we can take it to whomever to maintain it." Reynolds argued that open source technology is a cheaper alternative to proprietary, and will lower health sector costs...The chief executive of health charity coalition National Voices, Jeremy Taylor, added to Reynolds' open source arguments by pointing out that the nation of Jordan runs its entire health system off a downloaded open source clinical information system called VistA. Taylor said the country is finding the system to be both efficient and cheap...

Open Health News' Take: 

It behooves the British government to pay attention to what Dr. Carl Reynolds and Jeremy Taylor are advising. VistA has been as success in the United States and many other countries, as I report in this article, VA To Invest Billions in Open Source Transition. After wasting $19 billion in the failed "Best-of-Breed" National Programme for IT it looks like the British government is heading towards a repeat of this fiasco. For those who want to follow this story, Dr. Reynolds is founder of Open Health Care UK, an organization that is promoting open source health IT solutions. In addition the website Campaign for NHS VistA is a great resource for British advocates of VistA. This website has a great report on the implementation of VistA in Jordan. Dr. Reynolds is also one of the organizers of the NHS Hack Day 2012 taking place May 26-27 at the University of London. Roger A. Maduro, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief.