NHS: The Biggest Open Source Movement

The National Health Service and Open Source

Although not widely thought of in this manner, the National Health Service in the United Kingdom is as close as one can get to "Open Source" health care training, provision and research.

The ancient Oath of Hippocrates, contains some tenets which are wholly consistent with the present day GNU General Public Licence, where the skills and knowledge that a clinician develops through many years of study, training and practise are passed on to future generations through apprenticeships, with the unwritten and unspoken proviso that they do the same.

The same principles are applicable in the field of clinical research (Domains 2 and 3 of the Research Governance Framework, Sec. Ed. 2005), especially studies which are carried out using public funding. There is also a movement now to make other scientific research open source.

The ethos of caritas and software engineering

Also, just as the code that programmers write are improved through beta-testing and real-world user-feedback, clinicians gain knowledge and improve on their clinical skills by caring for their patients within the ethos of "Caritas", a two-way relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

Software engineering is also evolving to a model like the practise of medicine in the NHS via open source principles.To quote Douglas Carnall,

" Software engineering will become a profession more like medicine and law: in which practitioners earn a fair hourly reward for their experience at interpreting, evaluating and applying knowledge from a specialized domain to the benefit of their clients.

Current models, which restrict the sharing and development of knowledge, are certainly counterproductive and arguably unethical. Open source is the future: all we have to do is built it."


A Most Important Entity

As such, the National Health Service is a most important entity, often not appreciated enough by both clinicians and patients alike. Clinicians have the privilege of tailoring the best treatment for each patient from a pool of nationally established resources and clinical expertise with long term continuity of care as necessary, patients having the privilege to thus.

Neither having to worry about the "patient-affordability", "moral hazards" or "conflicts of interest", issues which are endemic and plague privatised medical-insurance-based and other similar "hybrid" health-care systems.

It would not be an overstatement to say that the NHS is the single greatest political, social and scientific achievement of Great Britain and her people; making an impact not only in the lives of all British people since it's conception, but also of all the people in the Commonwealth and many other countries where it has influenced the development of similar national health care systems.

This website seeks to highlight the similarities in the core principles of the NHS and the open source movement, as well as touching on the emerging trends as the NHS evolves towards a model more akin to the American healthcare system. Links are provided to relevant articles and full text pdf files where available.

The author has the highest opinion of the NHS, and the faceless and tireless individuals who keeps it running to serve the British public.

In view of the recent NHS Reform Bill, it is the author's believe that the time has come for all clinicians who believes in the core values of the NHS to speak out.

Even as the bill is being debated in the Lords, the efforts in privatising the NHS have already passed the half-way mark. Very soon, all the hard work and systems of patient care so meticulously worked-out and perfected by two -three generations of British clinicians will be lost forever.

The time to speak out for the NHS is now. The need, critical.

Key Pillars of the NHS

The following are two important works illustrating why the key pillars upon which the original National Health Service is built is important, and should be preserved in order to allow it to continue its role as the guardian and progenitor of the "Caritas" ethos in medicine in this brave new world of ours.

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Page Updated: 27 May, 2017


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