The openGPSoC project came to life in September 2012 after a conversation at NHS Hack Day ’2′ in Liverpool. The idea of a fully open source GP clinical system has been suggested and discussed many times in the past, however due to the stringent requirements of any such software it is recognised as a very hard thing to try to achieve. While we recognised this difficulty, we also felt there were a number of opportunities at present which might make such a project possible.
In the 1980s, at the birth of NHS information technology, GPs were often the early adopters who bought their own hardware and wrote their own software to allow them to simplify and automate their work. There were probably hundreds of different systems in existence in the 1980s. Gradually the systems became more sophisticated and harder to maintain and the market was slowly whittled away to the small number of providers we see now.
Clinicians’ desire to be involved in developing solutions has never gone away however, and has recently started to find new models of contibution, with endeavours like NHS Hack Day and others. The “sharing” basis of the open source movement to a degree parallels the social policy behind the NHS, and appeals to those who wish to see the NHS protected and improved. The NHS has also recently seen a number of expensive, high-profile failures of the closed-source model of software procurement, which has contributed to the feeling that that system is failing us.
Over the last 10-15 years open source software has matured hugely, in no small part due to the ease of collaboration through the Internet, and these mature open source solutions are now in a position to compete with closed source options. A new open source GP platform would allow the generation that followed those first GP “hackers” (some of whom are closely involved in the development of openGPSoC) to be able to contribute to the development of a new clinical system, maintain it for themselves, and build it into a world-class system.