Tech fund funding and open source – help the little guy

NHS England yesterday published the details for Tech fund 2 which is supposed (amongst other things) to provide much needed money to help hospitals reduce paper and to encourage the uptake of open source solutions.

That is all well and good but, due to the way the NHS is structured, this requires individual trusts to make applications for the money. This means that small open source suppliers need to get the backing of one or more trusts and to get them to write up the business case and tech fund application. I recently announced a service that I am supplying for public use (see previous posts) but this is available to all trusts and the public so how does this get funding as no specific trust needs to pay for it? The answer is that they can’t and have no incentive to.

This way of funding therefore actively discourages developers from developing or providing any services for general use and instead encourages companies to sell to trusts on an individual basis. It is also very difficult (dare I say nearly impossible) for small open source developers to get themselves in front of a trust in order to obtain funding. The only chance they might have is if they have already developed an application whereas most developers actually want sponsorship money in order to develop something in the first place that can then be delivered as open source. This is a classic catch 22 situation.

I am fully aware that NHS England are EXTREMELY wary of repeating the mistakes of NPfIT and so go out of their way to not be seen to recommend or push any solution to NHS Trusts but surely they could have some discretionary money in order to seed ideas and fund early stage developments that could benefit the NHS as a whole rather than the current piecemeal approach which ends up costing the NHS far more in the long term.

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