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Volunteers tailor Ubuntu Linux to UK’s health service

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A group of British IT health care specialists have tailored the Ubuntu Linux distribution for use by the UK’s national health service (NHS) on its workstations. The alpha version of NHSbuntu was unveiled at the South West CIO Forum on 27 April.

The advantages of NHSbuntu over proprietary PC operating systems include security, speed, costs and freedom. Using NHSbuntu will also enable NHS organisations to run up-to-date versions of browsers, creating an environment in which innovation can flourish, the developers say.

In a presentation at the conference, one of the four NHSbuntu developers, Rob Dyke, lauds the functionality and features that are included by default in NHSbuntu. One of the main benefits is full disk encryption, which can help safeguard privacy sensitive data.

Dyke also lists the upgrade and dependency problems that NHS will face if it continues to rely on the ubiquitous proprietary PC operating system. Here, NHS organisations will always be tied up with upgrading their workstations, will be forced to purchase new PC hardware, can’t guarantee that data is transmitted to the IT vendor’s, and will need to purchase additional software for functionality that is included in NHSbuntu.

“You can ask clinical systems suppliers to update legacy systems for modern browsers and operating systems, and hope you can afford it”, Dyke said, adding: “You can also ask for some more money from NHS England.”

Dyke and his colleagues say that 80% of workstations tasks are administrative. These can be carried out perfectly well on NHSbuntu, they say. The system can also be configured to handle the 20% clinical tasks, they add, including secure access to patient administrations systems, patient records, and access to general practitioner software solutions.

More information:

Presentation on NHSbuntu
NHSbuntu