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.
He pointed out that the Ministry of Defence is currently spearheading the use of open source software because it is often more secure than proprietary alternatives.
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.
"The problem is open source technology like VistA is offering a big challenge to the traditional NHS IT suppliers," he added.
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