The results of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent to every NHS trust in England suggest less than one in five expect to see a return on investment from public cloud services.

The FOI was sent to over 200 NHS trusts and foundation trusts by Ireland-based IT management software provider SolarWinds, to assess NHS organisations’ plans for adoption.

Responses were provided by 160 trusts.

The results revealed that only 17% trusts expect to see a return on investment (ROI) by adopting public cloud services, while 6% of respondents “explicitly” stated that they expected to see no ROI whatsoever.

The gloomy outlook appears to stem from a variety of concerns surrounding the security and management of the cloud: 61% of trusts surveyed cited security and compliance as the biggest barrier to adoption, followed by budget worries (55%) and legacy tech and vendor lock-in, which scored 53% respectively.

When trusts were asked about the challenges they faced in managing cloud services, just under half (49%) said determining suitable workloads was their primary concern, while 47% said they were worried about a lack of control over performance.

Protecting and securing the cloud was also highlighted as a key concern by 45% of NHS trusts.

The NHS has been slow to jump on the public cloud bandwagon since it was mandated for use by central government organisations in 2013. This has largely stemmed by a lack of clarity around how and what NHS services can be stored in the cloud.

As such, less than a third (30%) of NHS trusts surveyed by SolarWinds said they had adopted any form public cloud in their organisation. Furthermore, of these organisations approximately four in five respondents (79%) said they had no plans to migrate everything to the cloud.

Paul Parker, chief technologist of public sector at SolarWinds, said the findings “were not surprising”.

He added: “The results suggest that public sector users, particularly those handling sensitive data, have yet to be convinced that the public cloud is an integral tool that can provide considerable ROI. Crucial to the lack of trust is the lack of consistency in management tools across the infrastructure.

“The public sector needs tools that can combine the monitoring and management of on-premises and cloud infrastructure, including legacy technology, in a way that clearly demonstrates system performance and ROI potential. Without this, it will be near impossible to achieve the cost-efficiency and data fluidity that the government is aiming for with the Cloud First policy.”

NHS Digital published its first official guidance for NHS organisations adopting public cloud services in January this year.

Speaking at Digital Health’s Cloud Summit last month, Shaun Fletcher, NHS Digital’s chief technical architect, said health services should migrate to the cloud “as part of a sensible, risk-managed approach” with an emphasis on security.