The channel has helped the NHS save £330m on its software licensing costs through a nine-year deal with Microsoft and three of its Large Account Resellers (LARs).
Under the arrangement brokered by NHS IT director general Richard Granger and Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, the NHS will be able to use up to 900,000 Microsoft licences, compared with the current 500,000, and save £112m on licensing in the first three years.
Neil Jordan, head of healthcare at Microsoft UK, told CRN that all of the fulfilment will be done through partners.
"Three main LARs, TrustMarque, Civica and SCC, which were part of the original deal, made a huge contribution to us re-signing with the NHS. The service they gave to the NHS was a very important factor and left us in a good position," he said.
Jordan declined to comment on the exact value of the deal, but said an estimate of about £500m is a "pretty good guess". Each LAR has a specific part of the deal to deploy, he added.
Granger said the NHS is in an exceptionally strong position as an IT customer, as it is currently the largest procurer of IT services in the world.
"It represents not only substantial savings compared with previous NHS pricing, but also with that of other public-sector purchasers. Extremely favourable terms and conditions for the NHS have been secured," he said.
Ross Miller, managing director of LAR TrustMarque, said: "This is a centrally agreed contact. The guys actually using the technology are much further down, so it is our job to advise those people about what they have bought, how to use it and how to get the most out of it.
"We still have a lot of work to do to get it used properly, so that the health sector benefits all round."
The deal includes a £40m commitment from Microsoft to develop an NHS-specific clinical interface to be used across various health service systems.
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