Politics: Year 2000 warning to NHS trusts

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NATIONAL HEALTH Service hospital trusts and health authorities were yesterday accused by a minister of taking a cavalier attitude towards the threat posed by the millennium computer bug.

In a Commons statement, David Clark, the Cabinet minister with responsibility for Whitehall, appealed to MPs to do all they could to apply local pressure to some trusts and health authorities to take the issue seriously.

He said the NHS and local authorities needed to reassure the public that they could ensure a "satisfactory continuation of key public services over the millennium".

The bug will strike from the end of next year when two-digit year-dates change to 00. At that point, some computer programs will be unable to distinguish 2000 from 1900.It emerged yesterday that the NHS executive has given all trusts and authorities a September 1999 deadline for ensuring "all parts of the NHS are fully prepared with compliant equipment or effective contingency plans in place".

That deadline is certain to increase Government concerns about the action being taken by the NHS - because it leaves an inadequate three-month safety net for authorities which fall behind.