The NHS is suffering a PC management crisis due to lack of funding and manpower. PC Week investigations have uncovered an increasingly desperate situation, with a serious risk of data loss, inadequate provision for backup and lack of integration with centralised healthcare computer systems. One IT manager at an NHS Trust told PC Week: "We don't have the manpower to deal with the (data loss problem). Ideally, each department would have access to a central server to share files and this could be backed up effectively. But in the real world this is not always possible." Richard Keech, general manager at data recovery specialist Ontrack, reported: "We've seen over a 50% increase in hospital data loss in the last year." The problem is compounded by the piecemeal nature of the PC systems used for administration in hospitals. Although the central mainframe systems used by most hospitals are robust, they also rely on PCs which are not always properly integrated into these systems, while the provision of adequate backup for the PCs is inhibited by cost. Roger Johnson, marketing manager at Siemens Healthcare, said: "Our proposals include advice on data loss. But there is always a trade-off between risks and costs." Murray Bywater, director at Silicon Bridge Research which specialises in IT for the health service, added: "As in any organisation with lots of small PC systems, the risks of data loss are greatest when there is less integration." Bywater also said that since PC purchases are not part of central IT procurements, "a significant number of individuals rely on their own wits to look after and backup their machines." Not only do users have to do their own backups, the machines they use are often sub-standard. One supplier of large healthcare IT systems told PC Week: "Any hospital will have a significant number of PCs, being used from word processing to storing clinical information. Typically, the (NHS) buys are the cheapest ones and the ones most likely to go wrong."
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