The Department of Health (DoH) is working on a deal whereby Microsoft will continue to offer support for the NHS's Windows XP computers for a further 12 months after the software giant officially unplugs the OS's life support system on 8 April 2014.
DoH sources told The Register that Microsoft is being asked for bespoke security fixes for NHS computers for up to 12 months after support ends, which is now barely two weeks away.
The contract, it is said, will cost the DoH between £30m and £40m.
Custom support such as this is typically charged by Microsoft at $200 per PC for the first year of cover, $400 for the second year, and $800 for the third. This means the public sector has at least managed to secure a discount on the contract.
It is unclear whether the deal is a desperate measure by a health service that is simply unprepared to lose support in its existing systems, or whether it is designed to buy time in order to move the NHS - and other affected public sector systems - to a newer operating system.
In realated news, the Reserve Bank of India issued a warning this week that general banking operations in the country, particularly ATMs, may be hit after 8 April, as infrastructure is yet to be migrated away from the 13-year-old Microsoft OS.
"The probability of attacks on such a system may increase and it may be difficult to defend such attacks in the absence of Microsoft support," it said in a statement addressed to banks.
"As some of your systems, including ATMs, may still be working on Windows XP, you are advised to take immediate steps to implement appropriate systems and controls in this regard."