US giant Microsoft is accused of NHS 'takeover by stealth'

US giant Microsoft is accused of NHS 'takeover by stealth'

December 18, 2021

US giant Microsoft is accused of NHS ‘takeover by stealth’ by elbowing UK firms out of millions of pounds of contracts by giving remote-meeting software to the Health Service

  • Business Secretary investigating claims Microsoft has elbowed out British firms
  • Kwasi Kwarteng is probing whether the firm has managed a ‘takeover by stealth’
  • Microsoft offered its Teams programme to the NHS for free during the pandemic 

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is investigating claims that the US tech giant Microsoft has elbowed British firms out of millions of pounds of NHS contracts by giving remote-meeting software to the Health Service.

Officials in Mr Kwarteng’s Business Department are looking at claims that what was seen as a generous offer during the pandemic – providing Teams software free to the NHS – has led to a ‘takeover by stealth’ of its IT systems.

The software package, which is used by up to 1.2 million NHS staff, is estimated by industry sources to have saved the Health Service millions of pounds, but smaller businesses are understood to have told Mr Kwarteng’s officials that it was an ‘exercise in control’ by Microsoft to avoid open competition.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is investigating claims that the US tech giant Microsoft has elbowed British firms out of millions of pounds of NHS contracts by giving remote-meeting software to the Health Service

Microsoft is already being investigated by the competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority, over its plan to acquire Nuance, a £12 billion voice recognition platform which is widely used in the NHS.

A source said: ‘This looks like “NHSwashing” to rival companies – gaining lucrative leverage over health infrastructure under the guise of charity.’

The ‘productivity app’ Slack has filed a formal complaint with the EU Commission, claiming that Microsoft is pushing its Teams software to an uncompetitive degree, squeezing out rivals and monopolising the market.

Mr Kwarteng’s Business Department are looking at claims that Microsoft’s offer during the pandemic – providing Teams software free to the NHS – has led to a ‘takeover by stealth’ of its IT systems

The source added: ‘Microsoft may have claimed to save the NHS millions of staff hours – but the price will be much higher later on down the line.

‘Their licence renewals will not only be incredibly expensive. but it will be too late to find a system that is cheaper and frankly better. This “NHSwashing” is a useful distraction, but the Microsoft anti-trust case is growing.’

A Business Department source confirmed Mr Kwarteng was looking at whether Microsoft’s business practices had raised anti-competition issues.

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