NHS service standard - 12. Make new source code open

Make all new source code open and reusable, and publish it under appropriate licences.

Why it's important

Public services are built with public money. So unless there's a good reason not to, the code they're based should be made available for other people to reuse and build on.

Open source code can save teams duplicating effort and help them build better services faster. And publishing source code under an open licence means that you're less likely to get locked in to working with a single supplier.

What you should do

Your team should be able to show that you:

  • have written code in the open from the start, and publish it in an open repository - minus any sensitive information, like secret keys and credentials
  • keep ownership of the intellectual property of new source code that's created as part of the service, and make it available for reuse under an open licence

There are a few cases when you should not publish code in the open. For example, code that relates to a sensitive government policy that hasn’t been announced yet.


NHS service manual

GOV.UK resources

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Help us improve this guidance

Share insights or feedback and take part in the discussion. We use GitHub as a collaboration space. All the information on it is open to the public.

If you've gone through a service assessment or peer review, we're especially interested to hear from you.

Read more about how to feedback or share insights.

If you have any questions, get in touch with the service manual team.

Updated: December 2019