Government axes Novell NHS contract

The Department for Health has confirmed the soon-to-expire £6m Enterprise Wide Agreement (EWA) with Novell will not be renewed, leaving local trusts responsible for procurement and compliance.

The Department for Health has confirmed the soon-to-expire £6m Enterprise Wide Agreement (EWA) with Novell will not be renewed, leaving local trusts responsible for procurement and compliance.

Coming months after Microsoft's £80m EWA was chopped by DfH, the deal with Novell which included ID management, discovery tools and maintenance looked unlikely to be re-signed, but some have still branded the government's decision as short sighted.

A spokeswoman at DfH told MicroScope: "The current national EWA with Novell will expire on 30 October 2010. Future investment decisions will be taken at a local level."

"Novell, NHS Connecting for Health and NHS Trusts are engaged in constructive discussions to ensure ongoing operation of the Novell installed base following transfer of contracts to local ownership," she added.

This will fuel the debate about whether Trusts are better off individually paying for the software they use rather than being part of a centrally negotiated framework.

James Doggart, managing director at Salford Software, which provides professional services around Novell in the NHS, said cross sector agreements were only cost effective when they were adopted by the sector en masse.

One benefit of an EWA is that vendors tend to be a little more relaxed about the actual number of licenses required to cover the software in use.

Since July, when DfH canned its EWA with Microsoft, the US giant has been auditing NHS trusts to ascertain software utilisation and any monies owed. Sources close to the Novell said it will do the same.

"Vendors have often turned a blind eye to the actual number of licenses and systems in use but with no big contract in place, they will want to know the exact numbers. I expect the trusts will receive some pretty big bills in the post," predicted the source.

Without the economies of scale offered by an EWA, software will likely become more expensive but more importantly the decision could also jeopardise important NHS systems, others have warned.  

"If there is no maintenance agreement in place, there is no support from Novell on some of these critical systems, which is an insane move [by the government]," said another source.

The extent of other public sector austerity measures will become clearer on 20 October when the coalition plans to publish the autumn Spending Review.

Novell was unavailable to comment.

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