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People to suffer in year 2000

It’s not just PCs, say MPs

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The millennium bug could prove fatal, not just to computers but to people as well, according to MPs on the public accounts committee, and research from bug hunters at Prove It 2000. Meanwhile, John Prescott, deputy prime minister, assured the country that the government had the problem under control. MP’s on the committee said that it had found signs of slippage in the government’s campaign to stop computer crashing when the date changes, and has voiced fears that medical equipment could fail if it cannot handle the date change. “There are worrying signs that not all the public sector will be ready in time,” said chairman David Davis, a conservative MP. Prove It 2000 conducted a survey of GP’s NHS trusts, health authorities and hospitals, asking about levels of millennium readiness. The survey found that more than a third of those questioned had spent nothing on ensuring compliance, and less than half had even had budgets approved. Spending on the problem accounted for three per cent of the IT budget. “The report reveals that the NHS is massively unprepared for the year 2000. The thought that critical equipment such as operating theatres have not been tested for Year 2000 compliance chills me to the bone,” said Richard Coppel, chief executive of Prove It. The MP’s feel that there is a significant risk that medical equipment could fail, putting patients lives at risk. “We are appalled that the [medical devices agency] did not realise the potential impact of failures until late 1997,” the report says. “In our view, this delay, and the misleading advice [given] to the NHS in 1996, can only have increased the risk to patients and the costs of remedial action.” The report concludes that the Treasury must be prepared to put further funding the way of the public sector, in order to beat the bug.

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