Open Source FAQs

Updated 7 July 2015

Q: Does Open Source mean free?

A: Open source software is free from up-front license fees or capital outlays. Depending on the software, you may need to purchase specialist help to implement and support users of the solution. Any enhancements made to the open source code are be fed back into the community without cost.

Q: How is Open Source software licenced?

A: Open Source software is licenced through an open source agreement (such as AGPL) that allows organisations to develop and tailor the software to suit local needs. The licence obliges organisations to make any changed source code available to the community to ensure the product remains open and beneficial for all.

Q: Is Open Source safe?

A: The increasing adoption of open source solutions has resulted in a growing network of user and developer communities who continually review, troubleshoot and improve software code. The original developer organisation usually safeguards any developments, taking on a custodian role of the software, ensuring that it continues to satisfy NHS Information Governance and clinical safety requirements.

Q: What support can I expect?

A: Support is available either from the communities involved in the development and usage of the software or from the original developer organisation, although a charge may be applied for provision of the latter.

Q: Can the software be developed and sold?

A: If you have developed and contributed to any open source software, the modifications that have been made to the code must be fed back into the community at no cost. Consequently, the new modified version you have created is then also available free of charge. If appropriate you may wish to offer implementation or support services to organisations wishing to use the software.

For more information email or follow @NHSOpenSource.