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Local NHS Trusts are still waiting to receive licensing allocation from Connecting for Health to budget for software procurement.

They are refusing to sign off new purchase orders with resellers, a year after the coalition binned its enterprise-wide agreement with Microsoft.

The three-year £80m EWA was not renewed in June last year after the coalition could not agree on a price with the software giant and decided to devolve centralised purchasing power from CfH, leaving individual authorities also responsible for compliance.

The benefit is that Trusts are in charge of their own software usage, paying for applications they need, but by breaking the agreement into different component parts each trust will inevitably pay more to Microsoft, with some resellers estimating a hike.

The process of dividing licensing allocation and the resulting capital budgets between more than 500 Trusts in England and Wales, covered by the previous agreement, had proved to be a complex task for CfH, say sources close to the situation.

"Trusts are not buying," said one reseller. "Clearly they need to maintain coverage for the software they have… but if they want grow the headcount, newer versions that only recently became available or different technologies from Microsoft, they have to buy it."

Others agreed that until Trusts could ascertain the impact of additional licences on their profit and loss accounts, they were keeping their wallets wedged in their pockets. "There is a stalemate."

Microsoft audited NHS Trusts in the second half of 2010 following the cessation of the EWA with two true-ups - one in June and one in December - and channel insiders reckon the software lynchpin is using the ending of the EWA to "make more money".

"With the centralised deal broken into multiple agreements, Trusts are looking at price rises in the region of 10 per cent," claimed one insider.

Connecting for Health is the delivery arm for the Department for Health's Informatics Directory.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the DfH said: "The licences from the former NHS Microsoft Enterprise Agreement remain centrally held.

"Trusts have been advised of their individual licence allocations from this agreement and are responsible for ensuring that this allocation, along with any other agreements they have, licenses their estate appropriately."

Microsoft refused to comment. ®

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