The NHS Executive is still fighting shy of naming trusts and health authorities that are failing to meet year 2000 bug-fixing targets - even though the number of laggards is growing, according to the most recent quarterly returns.

Instead, it has ordered chief executives to provide returns every two months from now, instead of every quarter.

Fifty-one out of 507 NHS organisations reported 'unsatisfactory' progress in their self-assessment returns, submitted to regional offices at the end of March - compared with only 46 in the quarter ending December 1998.

Almost all of those reporting trouble in March had reported good progress in the December quarter, but had inadvertently slipped behind schedule. Meanwhile, most of the December 'unsatisfactories' had caught up with their targets by March - not surprisingly, since all had been visited by regional office inspectors.

The most alarming statistic is a very rapid increase in the number of acute hospitals regarded as unsafe. Twenty-eight trusts have now declared themselves as behind schedule, compared with only 10 at the end of December.

These hospitals are facing 'severe risks of material disruption', according to a National Audit Office report released simultaneously with the figures at the end of May. 'A substantial amount of work remains to be done if these risks are to be eliminated,' said NAO head Sir John Bourn.

Three ambulance trusts - one in South West, one in Northern and Yorkshire, and one in Eastern region - are also reporting unsatisfactory progress.

Also regarded as unsafe are 15 community trusts - but only five health authorities, despite the widespread worries over non-compliant GP practices for which HAs are supposed to take responsibility.

GP practices are apparently not being individually monitored for compliance - or at least are not being included in the statistics - although at least a quarter are believed to be running non-compliant patient management systems with no plan to upgrade.

The move to bi-monthly reporting follows recriminations between the NHS Executive and the NAO and the Audit Commission, whose independent audits of the NHS have disagreed sharply with the results of the NHS's own self- monitoring programme.

The NHS Executive has complained that reports released by the Audit Commission were out of date by the time they appeared, showing the NHS's compliance in a bad light.

Bi-monthly reporting by NHS bodies will synchronise the different organisations' measurements, NHS Executive director of planning Alastair Liddell told HSJ.

In a circular dated 16 April, Mr Liddell undertook to disclose full information about the state of readiness of individual NHS organisations in July, when the government's National Infrastructure Forum is to hold a public meeting to review the progress of crucial industries.