Health: Computer timebomb for patients

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The Independent Online
As many as 1,500 hospital patients could die as a direct result of computer failures in the first weeks of the year 2000, an academic warned yesterday. Computer systems in hospitals across the country will fail because of the "millennium timebomb" problem, causing serious disruption to services, harm to patients, financial losses for trusts and care organisations, and opening up a well of legal action, said Prof Mike Smith of St Bartholomew's Hospital.

Prof Smith, an expert in both computing and health issues, said his detailed study of the effects of problem on the health service showed the Government was either being "astonishingly complacent" or "showing a total misunderstanding" of it.

"The NHS has tried hard to come to terms with the year 2000 problem, but the size and scope of it so massive that it needs vast resourcing to deal with it effectively," said Prof Smith. "The NHS does not have the know-how or the resources to deal with the problem alone. The results of this situation could well be disastrous for many families up and down the country."