<a name="4"> National Health Service (NHS) faces £200m millennium bill <a name="5"> Computer Weekly (UK)

9th January, 1997

NHS faces £200m millennium bill

NHS trusts face an extra IT bill of about £200m to upgrade systems to cope with the millennium date change. The figure, equivalent to the entire NHS yearly IT budget, is what the NHS Executive predicts may have to be spent on upgrading systems over the next three years. It is enough to pay for four new hospitals or more than 30,000 hip replacement operations.

A group of 69 trusts has already reached an agreement with Siemens Nixdorf Information Systems, under which the trusts will pay almost £1m to upgrade the supplier's patient administration system, IRC PAS. Siemens Nixdorf marketing communications manager, Roger Johnson, insisted, "We will not make a profit from the work. Our customers have told us of other suppliers charging £60,000 to £100,000 for similar work."

The UK's 429 health service trusts have until the year 2000 to budget for the extra costs, but most have little idea how many systems will need upgrading, let alone the cost. Most are in the process of recruiting year 2000 project managers to assess the problem and brief management.

King's Healthcare trust in London has conducted a millennium survey among its IT suppliers. "It could be that up to 70% of our systems are not compliant," said systems delivery manager Colin Sweeney. "There is already great pressure to cut costs and this will not help," he added.

Some systems, like those holding details of patients due for breast screenings, could seriously hit patient care if they failed. Sweeney agreed that suppliers had trusts over a barrel. "We are dependent on the computer firms. If we do not pay for an upgrade, we will have to buy a new system."

Ken Jarrold, director of human and corporate resources at the NHS Executive, sent a letter to all trusts last November warning them about the year 2000 problem and offering advice on how to tackle the issue. But the letter did not mention the possibility of challenging suppliers' right to charge for millennium upgrades.

Rosemary Mulley of solicitors Nabarro Nathanson says that if a program is more than 10 years old (like IRC PAS), it would be difficult to hold the computer firm liable. "These disputes are unlikely to go to court," said Mulley. "Suppliers and customers want to maintain a good relationship, and no one wants to bear the costs of fighting what could well be a test case."

Copyright © Reed Business Publishing 1996

[Year 2000 Date Problem - Index Page]