The government slashed estimates for Year 2000 spending on the health service last week, while raising spending in other departments.
Amid a total rise in spending of 6%, to z393 million, the NHS has dropped its estimated spending on the Y2K problem by 7%, to z5.7 million.
Meanwhile, the Highways Agency increased its estimate from z4.3 million to z14.3 million, and the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food increased its funding for the problem by 62%, to z18 million.
A database manager at a London NHS Trust, who did not wish to be named, described the government figures as "woefully insufficient". He said large Trusts would expect to spend around z1 million on the problem, and that the total cost to the NHS could be as much as z500 million.
Kieran Walshe, a senior researcher in NHS management at the University of Birmingham, said the government's figure is not based on empirical data. "There is reason for concern over this issue," he said. "The NHS is a very large and complex industry, but I feel the NHS will at least deal with mission critical systems in its own way."
Simon Webley, director of the British-North American Research Association, expressed surprise that the NHS had lowered its estimates.
"I can only assume that they are only tackling the systems affecting patients directly, because they do not have the people to put all the systems right," he said.
The Department of Health refused to comment on its new spending figure, but a spokesman for the NHS Executive, which implements NHS policy, said NHS Trust and health authorities would have to submit plans and estimates of costs to the NHS by the end of March.
Chief executives of Trusts and Health Authorities are responsible for ensuring mission critical systems remain in operation over the date change, the spokesman said.
David Clark, the public services minister, claimed there is general confidence that programmes are adequately resourced in terms of money and people.
"I am confident that the reports are creating a strong momentum for action within departments, but we cannot afford to be complacent," he commented.
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