Up to £20m of the ‘Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards: Technology Fund’ will go towards open source development.
Speaking at EHI Live 2013, Beverley Bryant, director of strategic systems and technology at NHS England, said 20 trusts want to pursue an open source electronic patient record system.
She said further trusts have also expressed an interest, so a large sum of the first round of the tech fund will go towards supporting that.
“We’re going to reward £15m-£20m specifically for trusts to develop an open source option,” she said.
Bryant said she expected a similar amount to be awarded from the second round of the tech fund, due to open shortly.
“When we launch tech fund 2, we expect that we will be able to stimulate further demand. We’re going to be ready to launch in December for responses in February,” she said.
Bryant also announced that Hewlett Packard had expressed an interest in open sourcing their software.
“What we got at the moment are four solutions and products. HP have confirmed that they’re going to be looking to make some of their software open source,” said Bryant.
She explained that NHS England was working with four different organisations and suppliers to put their products on the framework: IMS Maxims; University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust with its in-house PICS e-prescribing system; the US Veterans Association system, VistA, and HP.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced in January that he wanted to see a ‘paperless’ NHS by 2018. The government has backed this aim with the tech fund, which, with matching funding, will deliver £1 billion to NHS IT over the next three years.
The first round of the fund, which was focused on NHS Number, e-prescribing, scheduling and information sharing, was heavily over-subscribed. NHS England indicated that as part of the fund, it would also look at open source options for the NHS.
Initially, it seemed keen to anglicise VistA, but EHI reported earlier this year that NHS England would not spend £7m doing this.
Instead will create a framework for NHS trusts to buy open source system support, hosting and change management.
Bryant said that although NHS England will not anglicise the American open source EPR, it had not ruled out using components of it.
“We’ve looked at VistA, and it might still happen, but we will do some evaluation with the NHS to see if it fits their needs,” she said.
She added that these were only the initial products based on what the NHS wanted, but that NHS England were still looking to identify more.
To ensure that the open source software is used safely, the government will put in place safe guards in form of a custodial structure.
“What we propose is to create a structure of custodians,” said Bryant and added: “We haven’t finished the work in terms of the detail.”
She said that NHS England was keen to make suppliers understand that open source can provide opportunities to suppliers.
“There’s been talk that it’s a detriment to suppliers, but we believe it’s a way to improve technology and stimulate growth,” she said.
“The point is that what I want to do is attract proprietary software suppliers to open source. If we’re going to achieve the digital revolution everyone need to pull together.”