NHS Connecting for Health has told trusts they have until the end of October to confirm how many Microsoft products they have – or risk facing compliance liability issues.

Trusts have been sent Licence Transfer Requests by CfH that ask them to complete a comprehensive analysis of their levels of Microsoft software usage.

The £500m Microsoft Enterprise wide Agreement with the NHS expired in May. The Department of Health holds a number of perpetual Microsoft licences that will be transferred to local organisations.

However, there may not be enough to meet every trust’s requirements. In addition, trusts will have to buy Software Assurance to continue using some Microsoft products.

Those using the Forefront Protection Suite for antivirus will have to pay for it from the beginning of June 2011. And up to 100,000 NHS staff who have taken advantage of the Home User Programme must uninstall the software.

Earlier this year, trusts were asked to provide details on the number of Microsoft products they had in order to support a potential renewal of the EwA. Now the agreement has not been re-signed, CfH is asking all trusts to resubmit their levels of usage.

A letter sent by CfH’s head of industry liason, Peter Dyke, says that licences will be “transferred on a first come, first served basis” and that “failure to comply may result in an insufficient number of licence being allocate to your organisation and give rise to subsequent compliance liability.”

A further document – ‘Microsoft Desktop Enterprise Agreement-FAQs’ – says that if trusts do not provide the necessary information, or if Microsoft believes that their intellectual property rights have been infringed, the company has “legal rights to validate information and to audit.”

EHI understands that the EwA covered 877,000 desktop licences. However, Civica Services, one of the Large Account Resellers that has been accredited by Buying Solutions to support trusts through the transfer process, has said that that the NHS is likely to need in excess of one million licences.

CfH initially hoped that the transfer process would be completed by the end of September. However, it has since allowed additional time “given the complexity involved”. The agency hopes that the transfers of licences will be completed by the end of the year.

Alex Lemon, Civica’s licencing expert, said that companies like Civica can plan and complete the audit process in less than a week. He added: “Trusts need to be taking this seriously otherwise they are likely to face consequences.

"Let’s not have the confusion at the end of the month where we are still in a position where we don’t know if there are enough licences to go round and some trusts are left without or facing compliance issues.”