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It will be business as usual for staff working at Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham over the millennium. The main perk on offer will be the chance to do their bit.

'We are here to do the job we are paid for. We are not here to have some kind of watered-down party,' says Professor Colin Barber, year 2000 project director and manager at Queen's Medical Centre Nottingham University Hospital trust. 'We can't bribe people to come to work. And I don't think we should.'

Staff working through the extended holiday can expect a 'modest' compensation payment and free meals.

The blunt approach is at odds with the tone adopted elsewhere. At a millennium communications workshop last month, Professor Barber shared a platform with Alan Reid, director of corporate communications at Grampian University Hospital trust.

Mr Reid believes that the 'softer side' to millennium planning - keeping staff happy with 'a glass of something and a sausage roll' - is key to the smooth running of the long holiday.

'We will have a lot of staff in and we need to offer them some light relief. So we will have a nice little party going on in the concourse of the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.'

At the same workshop, Kate Roe, director of communications at the City and Hackney Community Services trust, suggested that keeping staff well fed was a 'key issue'.

'Cheese sandwiches with curled up edges are not going to be the thing for the millennium,' she warned.

But while Professor Barber agrees that staff morale is important, he believes that staff are 'smart enough' not to be fooled by a few canapes.

'I think you have to make a choice. You can't have your fun if you are at work. I think people are smart enough to know that. If an organisation is saying you can come to work and have a bit of fun as well, I think they are kidding themselves.'

QMC has taken a lean approach to staffing the millennium.

'We do not want lots of bodies in here that aren't useful,' says Professor Barber.

'We don't want volunteers working in areas they are unfamiliar with.

'The only people we want in are those we have identified as having the skills we need.'

He is sceptical of plans which rely heavily on on-call systems.

'If we want people in then they have to be here. There is no point having people on call who will get stuck in traffic and take hours to get here.'

And he believes it is important that contingency plans 'provide the appropriate tools' to tackle pressures peculiar to the millennium. Organisations could make 'a big mistake' if they rely too heavily on rolling out standard major incident plans, he says.

'These are reliant on good communications and transport - the two things we are unlikely to have.'

Throughout the NHS, there is broad agreement that internal and external communications are the key to damping down millennium panic and reducing pressure on acute services.

Professor Barber and colleagues began with an internal poster campaign devised to ensure that all staff knew where to go to with their queries on both equipment and service issues.

To this end, year 2000 liaison officer Steve Hawkins was photographed standing in front of a government poster about the millennium bug.

'Get your business ready for the millennium' became the natty catchphrase 'Get yo ready'.

Mr Hawkins became the 'man in the picture' - a minor celebrity within the trust, and the first port of call for year 2000 concerns.

'At ward level people were worried about their video recorders, toasters and the fish in their tropical tanks. A lot of it was about reassurance,' says Mr Hawkins.

Both he and Professor Barber say the focus has now switched from initial concern surrounding the millennium bug to service issues.

Of 5,000 pieces of equipment identified, 2,000 were categorised as 'critical or above'.

How confident is the trust that all its equipment is millennium-proof?

'If you had asked me that question two weeks ago, I would have said I was very optimistic,' says Professor Barber.

Since then three companies have backtracked on equipment guarantees, leaving the trust to 'scrabble around' and pay for improvements.

'It is a bit of a worry when something like that comes out of the woodwork. It is getting a bit close to the wire,' admits Professor Barber.

He insists he is 'quietly confident' that Queen's will cope as the new century dawns.

But Mr Hawkins says that won't leave everyone happy.

'I think the staff are all a bit disappointed. They were hoping everything would go wrong and there would be a chance for a bit of wartime spirit.'