Following the appalling experiences my family suffered in a London teaching hospital fumbling the care of my dying uncle (letters, 19 July), my elderly mother also nearly became a victim of the NHS.

As a cancer survivor, her recent breathlessness took on a sinister significance, and her GP requested an x-ray (at our local three-star hospital - ho ho).

There she was told it would take two weeks for the result to wend its way back to the GP - two weeks of festering anxiety for the patient.

I complained, and our GP kicked up a fuss. We got the result in short order.

The consultant interprets the x-rays in a shaded room, dictating his opinion to a secretary. Working 'in the dark' is unpopular and only undertaken in stretches of an hour-and-a-half. A shortage of secretaries for this unpleasant job means results are delayed.

This local lunacy was confirmed as widespread at the recent British Association of Urological Surgeons conference, where a delegate told me he had a 'three-week delay because the management couldn't find him a suitable typist'.

When I suggested consultants might type their own opinions in a template format, the reaction was close to my having broken wind in St Paul's Cathedral. I suggested voiceactivated dictation software.

This was pooh-poohed on the grounds that it would cost '£100,000'. Actually, it costs£68.

The only other investment is in time, enthusiasm and a desire to re-engineer a system that does not rely on hard-to-recruit labour and brings peace of mind to patients.

Last year£100m earmarked for IT 'disappeared', consumed by the pressures of trusts' operating debt. IT implementation deadlines have already been pushed back and definitions fiddled with. A national IT strategy 'for local implementation' creates hiding places, confusion and uncertainty. After NHS Information Authority chief executive Nigel Bell's departure, the IT hierarchy is in chaos, having lost the one executive who understood what needed to be done.

Home-grown managers and clinicians, plucked from school and trained in a blackboard and gas lamp environment, have no idea, or exposure to, the pivotal role that IT plays in modern business and commerce. Hence there is no urgency to implement it in the NHS.

Senior civil servants and career politicians have nothing like the knowledge or necessary experience.

To try to run the world's largest bureaucracy with thirdworld administration systems is a dangerous dereliction of leadership, policy and responsibility. The Information Authority has lost the wrong person. It is the board which should consider its future, and ministers should look for an IT czar from the private sector.

Roy Lilley Surrey