HC Deb 15 December 1998 vol 322 cc747-8
4. Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire)

What assessment he has made of the preparedness of ambulance services in respect of year 2000 compliance. [62445]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Hutton)

Ambulance services are making good progress towards ensuring year 2000 compliance. Progress is monitored quarterly by the national health service executive.

Mr. Todd

May I point out to my hon. Friend that Derbyshire ambulance trust has not yet reached year 2000 compliance? However, the recently announced merger between Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire ambulance services may allow it to use the more advanced technology available in those services. I very much hope that the merger will not distract Derbyshire ambulance trust from improving response times in the area, which, sadly, are the worst in the country, in spite of the tremendous efforts of the trust's hard-working staff, who have put in a great deal of time and effort to try to remedy the situation.

Mr. Hutton

I can assure my hon. Friend that the new trust that will operate in the east midlands will improve the delivery of service to his constituents and others in the east midlands. That is clear, and we approved the merger for those reasons. We are monitoring closely issues concerning improving response times for the Derbyshire ambulance service. As he will know, additional expenditure has been authorised to ensure year 2000 compliance, and we expect to see an improvement in response times.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge)

Can the Minister confirm his current estimate of the total cost to the NHS of millennium compliance? What progress has his Department made in seeking to recover any part of that anticipated cost from suppliers of equipment to the NHS?

Mr. Hutton

I am afraid that I am unable to respond in detail to the hon. Gentleman's questions. I am happy to look into the matter and respond to him in writing, if that would be helpful. However, Government Members will take with a pinch of salt the lectures from Conservative Members, who had plenty of opportunity to address these issues in government, and conspicuously failed to do so.

Mr. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood)

As Derbyshire does not have millennium compliance and Nottinghamshire does, will my hon. Friend take steps to ensure that the new ambulance trust of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire rises to the level of the best rather than sinking to that of the worst.

Mr. Hutton

Yes, I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. Let me make it absolutely clear that, following approval for the merger, the Derbyshire ambulance service will use the same accident and emergency control systems that are currently in use by Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, and that those two systems are completely year 2000 compliant.