The Department of Health and Microsoft are negotiating a deal to extend security support to NHS PCs running Windows XP, which will be vulnerable to attack if they miss the end of support deadline on April 8.

Following an investigation by The Register, which found that thousands of PCs across England are due to miss the deadline, the government department has now revealed that it is in talks with Redmond to develop a migration plan for NHS organisations.

Part of the deal will see Microsoft offer the NHS 'extended support' – according to The Register – which will come at a cost. Extended support is being charged at a higher cost in a deliberate attempt to prompt people to move to newer versions of Microsoft’s OS.

The NHS in England has more than one million PCs and laptops running Windows XP at trusts, GPs and other health groups – and extended support is charged at $200 (£120) per desktop for the first year.

However, without it, NHS desktops and networks could be exposed to attacks and attempts to steal data via unprotected holes in the software.

The Department of Health told The Register: "We are discussing plans with Microsoft for putting in place a migration plan and extended support for the NHS.

"As well as mitigating against the potential risks of unsupported Windows XP, we hope this will save a lot of money for the NHS alongside the benefits of more modern operating systems."

The Whitehall department said that negotiations over extended support and migration plans will conclude "shortly".