Letters

'Stuck between flaws' (IT Update, 30 September) misrepresents the Medical Devices Agency's view of the risk of year 2000 problems with medical devices.

We have never asserted that 'all the fears about dialysis machines and infusion pumps going haywire are just myths'. We believe that some particular stories are myths and we have received no evidence to the contrary.

We expected that some models of medical equipment would have date related problems. We therefore asked manufacturers to identify affected models and make the information available to users and indicate appropriate remedial action. For many models, manufacturers have now either provided upgrades or specified workarounds.

It is unfortunate, but hardly surprising, that they have been unable to do so for a few models, which will therefore have to be withdrawn from service if the problems are serious.

The 'high risk of failure' referred to in the picture caption would exist only if remedial action was not taken. Readers will be aware of the amount of effort expended in the NHS to ensure that inventories are accurate, that the compliance status of each item has been assessed, and that appropriate action has been taken.

Users should also have contingency plans to address the small residual risk that may remain. We have provided guidance on contingency plans for medical devices.

Your article also refers to an alleged 'cosy relation of confidentiality' with equipment suppliers. Although some correspondence is quite properly held in confidence, that does not apply to information about serious problems that device users need to be warned about.

And we would not hesitate to take regulatory action against a manufacturer of a medical device, if that is the appropriate response to a year 2000 problem.

Alan Kent Chief executive Medical Devices Agency