Hospital patients could die as the UK government?s campaign to tackle the millennium bug slips behind time, members of parliament warned today.
Members of one of the most important House of Commons select committees - the all-party Public Accounts Committee - published a report today saying it was "appalled", "astonished" and "disturbed" by the slowness of the National Health Service executive to tackle the millennium bug.
With less than 500 days left until the millennium, the report said the NHS cannot guarantee the safety of patients? lives.
?The millennium threat poses a serious risk of disruption to government business, and there are worrying signs that not all of the public sector will be ready in time,? said David Davis, chairman of the committee. ?In the NHS, this could mean that, in extreme circumstances, patients? lives could be at risk.?
The report said the NHS had got off to a late start in tackling the Year 2000 problem, and in particular it was appalled that the Medical Devices Agency had not realised the potential impact of failures until late last year.
Overall, the cost of fixing the millennium bug could be as much as #3 billion for the public sector, the report said.
The report will make unpleasant reading for the government following Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott?s announcement yesterday that Whitehall departments will be ready on time. Prescott put his signature to Pledge 2000, claiming that the government will do all it can to minimise disruption to public services.
Pledge 2000 is the initiative backed by pressure group Action 2000, designed to help organisations share information on potential Y2K problems by agreeing not to sue each other for failing to fix them.
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