NHoS Closedown - the final straw

Sorry (and of course thanks) to anyone who’s helped out with the NHSbuntu Linux project and it’s revamped version NHoS but I think we’ve finally reached a point where we’ve had enough.

The entire NHSbuntu/NHoS team (4 core members) have been working as volunteers, with a few small work packages and pieces of funding courtesy of the Apperta Foundation, but we have received absolutely zero backing from those higher up in NHS Digital and other NHS organisations. We’re clearly not the ‘right’ kind of innovation, it seems. Most of our interaction with NHSD and NHSE at high level has in fact been deleterious to the project.

In particular we have had a number of conversations which led to several cancelled-at-the-last minute meetings with Will Smart and Paul Rice - who (unbeknown to us) were also duplicitously negotiating with Microsoft about a new NHS Enterprise Wide Agreement In fact, I now strongly suspect that the reason we were getting any engagement at all at these levels was in order to strengthen NHSE negotiating position with Microsoft, by being able to say to M$ ‘there is a competitor, we are meeting with them next week’.

The final straw is that despite having changed our name from NHSbuntu to NHoS and significantly changed our branding style in order to satisfy the DH Brand Police’s first legal letter (fair enough I guess, we were definitely pushing it with NHSbuntu) we have now been served with a second letter for NHoS (see below).

We spent a significant amount of volunteer time just in changing all our tooling and branding from NHSbuntu to NHoS, and following a second takedown letter, the lack of any forthcoming material assistance or support, and in particular the duplicitous behaviour of NHSE CIO and team, we’ve decided simply to shelve the project. We can’t afford the personal time required to rebrand another time. We have other work to do.

The NHS will just have to solve its own terminal addiction and lock-in to Microsoft. One day we may reinitiate the project, when we have some people backing us at high level who actually believe in the project’s aims and aren’t using it as leverage to help them get their political ends.

You hear a lot about Innovation in the NHS, but if this is the way innovators are treated - with the full might of DH Legal against an unfunded volunteer organisation - then you can see why we have no actual innovation, just bullshitters retweeting each other about a vague fantasy Blockchain and AI future, while the NHS burns for lack of basic functionality.

Marcus Baw
Rob Dyke
NHoS Directors

Here’s the latest takedown letter:

2018.01.17 NHoS DH takedown 2.pdf (177.0 KB)

A sad day. I understand and respect the team’s decision but it’s wrong for the NHS.

:cry: :cry: :cry:

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Whilst I would in no way count the last (Almost a year now) of working as a core member on this project as a waste of time, I do echo Marcus frustration at the lack of vision at the higher levels of NHS IT (perhaps there is a letter missing)! I was extremely honoured and proud to have been part of something that has so much potential, and has introduced me to to and I believe made friends with some amazing people with a vast array of skills that are under-utilised. Marcus passion for Open Source and Rob’s amazing skill set, alongside Tony’s bullish determination, was, we thought, the right mix to move this forward. As all good revolutionaries, we will go back underground, and continue to chip away at the bastion of NHS IT (That letter missing again), and will no doubt emerge once the powers that be have spend £Millions, nay £Billions of tax payers money on Windows 10, but only if we retire the EDGE Browser, block all access to Google Chrome and Firefox and only use IE11 because we need to update our E-learning on ESR :confounded::disappointed::cry: :nauseated_face::nauseated_face: Kenny Kennington, NHSBuntu/NHoS Core team member


This is a real shame as the project has so much potential but I can sympathise with your experiences.

Your work with the opensource Identity Agent had the potential to be a game changer in Linux adoptation in the NHS as this has been the main blocker for us whenever we have looked at anything in the past.

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Commiserations. This should not be happening. The letter is mostly nonsense bureaucratese. I consider there to be a category of work practice I call ‘criminal incompetence’, which is to say, people who accept highly paying jobs on the pretence of professional competency and alignment with the ultimate aims of the organisation, but who instead are incompetent and work knowingly against those aims, all the while taking their pay, and of course blocking up the organisation in the sense of the Peter Principle. The last time we saw this in a serious way was in NPfIT. But it appears that it never goes away.


I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all involved for their much needed efforts to help make the world a better place, and wish you all the best with whatever you decide to dedicate your free time to next.

And here’s to hoping that enthusiasm for this project may pick up at some time in the near future.

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I want to thank you for your work. While this is a loss for our community, you worked as a community for community and even to the very end, informed our community about what was happening. This is why community is so important! I am not surprised by all the turn of events, by heart breaks by all these actions - including using volunteers to leverage talks with M$.

As someone who also was recently working on a distro - I know all the work that can go into such a project. All I can say is the time was useful in learning and experience.

It really breaks my heart also that trademark is again stifling potential good in this world.

Marcia Wilbur

Wow it’s a bit of a stretch to think that NHoS infringes on NHS…
perhaps it’s all the references to NHS in the website etc. that’s
knotting up their knickers. Regardless this is bureaucratic bullying
without a doubt and it’s wise to shelve things until the climate
changes… and it will. What is astounding is that this nonsense is
stifling an attempt to address a serious security weakness in the NHS’s
infrastructure… not to mention squashing potential competition for MS.

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The NHoS takedown letter implies (as did the first NHSbuntu takedown) that somehow as well as the trademarks and logo, the NHS owns certain parts of the EM spectrum that are blue, all ITALICISED CAPITAL LETTERS, and also the letters N, H and S.

We’ve had numerous high level discussions with people who would have easily been in a position to make all this legal naming issue go away, by making us an official or ‘supported’ NHS project. Not one of those people decided to do so. Not one of them had the balls to give us an actual reason why. Had we been adopted as an official project (which one person in NHS Digital did work really hard to make happen) we could have kept the original NHSbuntu!

Shameful to see such manoeuvrings blocking excellent innovation. Thank you core members. And I hope that as Kenny hinted, at some stage we’ll see the “son of NHOS/NHSbuntu” making an appearance

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I am confident that the talent and leadership behind this project will identify a new or existing project to apply themselves to. As we all know, there are many problem gaps (esp. in the developing world) and open source healthcare is an amazing platform to fill them.

Although I am new here, I have been impressed by Marcus’ unique approach to open source healthcare and believe that OpenHealthHub will continue to grow and make a positive change in the world by bringing together various project leaders and minds.

Matthew Vita

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Sorry to hear about this.
Could this be simply solved by moving the project to a neutral name such as UKhealthOS?
Whether they realise it today or tomorrow or next year, NHS needs linux/open-source solutions. It’s just a question of time.

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I was going to say something similar, but you beat me to it. I wonder if NHS Wales, Scotland and NI would view the trademark bulls*** differently ? Or does the NHS trademark extend through the devolved nations ? They all seem to use it, so assume yes. Saying that, I doubt very much that NHoS would be received any better in NHS Scotland. +1 to the idea of a brand-neutral Linux distro whose target users are healthcare workers.
Also, why restrict to the UK, maybe just HealthOS ?

Thanks everyone for the supportive comments. I think we’re going to take a good long break from this project, make sure DH are clear it’s closed down, and wait until the threatening letters have definitely stopped. ANd then I suspect we’ll be back with a similar project, this time we will probably go with something much more conservatively named, like the above ‘HealthOS’ & similar suggestions.

Cheers all,


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Could you not put the branding into part of the build process?

So it could pick up all required images/strings from a directory or zip to be baked in?

This would also allow for adhoc customisations etc?

Just thinking out loud

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That pretty much sums up how the identity aspects of the project are sliped
in to the packages now.

But it’s a little more involved than that…

We rebranded before. It took weeks. All the package names need changing,
and the names of the repos, and the organisation set as the owner of the
repos, and that is while checking and rechecking that end to end we still
produce a working ISO…

The labour is not insignificant. The frustration with that labour is that
it doesn’t further the project in the slightest. Marcus and I LOVE work.
Its wasteful labour we can’t abide…

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We had quite a few YouTube videos with NHSbuntu branding on the desktop background… You can imagine the rigmarole of having to re-record all these for the second time!

Could the videos with NHSbuntu branding in background be corrected with video editing software rather than re-recorded? Where are the videos?

OK, found https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCStu_DS17x25mnNf5w0nIvw/videos

Hi @zeeshan

It does seem that the videos are one of the things that Govt Legal are
concerned with.

I’ve switched the video on the home page to a new video which does not have
the old NHSbuntu logo on the desktop. I’m not sure how far that will go to
placate the Powers That Be.

The other videos need to be reproduced with the latest version of NHoS