Public Sector – NHS faces 2000 alone

The government has ignored calls from the NHS Confederation for funds to help the National Health Service cope with the millennium bug.

Stephen Thornton, the confederation’s chief executive, said he was ‘disappointed’ with the government’s response to the National Audit Office report on managing the millennium computer threat. The report confirmed NHS Trusts and agencies were set to fail to meet the December deadline for all critical systems to be ready or for contingency plans to be in place.

Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, put the cost of managing the threat at over #330m. But the Department of Health dismissed the NAO figures.

‘We estimate the cost to be less than that. At the moment there’s no new money going towards the NHS for equipment or information technology.

We are allocating #6m over the next two years and expect the NHS will be able to get ready and comply with year-2000 requirements,’ said a department spokeswoman.

Baroness Jay, the minister for health, said: ‘I recognise the year 2000 presents us with a massive challenge to the health service. Rigorous guidance will ensure that the NHS Trusts are fully accountable for their progress towards year-2000 compliance.’

The NHS confederation said it had become increasingly frustrated by the government’s refusal to offer practical assistance. ‘The NHS needs new money and technical assistance, not civil servants monitoring our performance,’ Thornton pointed out.

‘We do not want to alarm patients, and the NHS will do whatever it can to minimise the risk. We cannot, however, guarantee that there will not be any disruption and inconvenience,’ he added.

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