Medical product manufacturers are collectively refusing to sign year 2000 IT compliance certificates sent to them by trusts.

The certificates, drafted by NHS Supplies, attempt to bind suppliers into a legal guarantee that their products will operate properly and that they will continue trading normally into the next century.

But the Association of British Healthcare Industries has advised its members not to sign the deed.

ABHI technical director Clive Powell called the deed 'severe', and said any supplier who signed it could be held liable for delivery or equipment failures caused by third parties such as banks, utilities, or even by the hospital itself.

ABHI has advised members to tell hospitals that 'for reasons of time and expense it is not our policy to answer specific enquiries from individual customers'.

Instead, they will explicitly state that they are not giving any warranties of year 2000 compliance, and undertake only to 'endeavour to mitigate the risks and to minimise the number and severity of technical failures'.

ABHI's members include multinationals such as 3M, Smith & Nephew, and Johnson & Johnson, as well as electromedical manufacturers.

An NHS Supplies spokesperson claimed that 'a large number' of suppliers had already signed the deed, which it admits is 'very demanding'.