Over the past 18 months, thousands of IT staff across the NHS in England have amassed substantial skills in addressing the year 2000 problem. Some now have an absolute mastery of the issue, others less so. But in the first quarter of next year all these skills will become obsolete. They are unlikely to be relevant in the year 3000 or even 2100.

Meanwhile, the NHS has almost ceased developing and implementing systems to support the increased efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare operations or to lay the basis for modernising the NHS. Worse, when the year 2000 issue has been resolved, IT staff in the health sector, by and large, will be ill-equipped to return to essential information systems development and support.

While NHS staff have dedicated themselves to resolving the year 2000 problem, technology has advanced apace and staff skills have not kept up. Astute trust or health authority board members will be asking what steps their organisation is taking to re-skill IT staff for the next decade. Unfortunately, all too often NHS information systems and strategy seems to be caught in a 1990s time warp.

T J Brooks

Walton on Thames