OUR hospitals just about cope each winter when flu, New Year’s Eve binge drinking and the usual slips, trips and falls fill all the hospital beds but 20years ago health chiefs in Furness also needed their fingers crossed ready for the dreaded millennium bug.

As it turned out, the passing of midnight on December 31 in 1999 did not result in computers crashing all over the world - bringing chaos for banks, operating theatres, shops, schools and offices.

Big organisations - including Barrow’s Furness General Hospital - had spent many months getting ready for their systems not recognising the Year 2000 - or computers thinking it was 1900 again.

The Mail, on February 1 in 1999  - 11 months before the expected computer disaster - noted: “The hospital has been working on contingency plans to safeguard its computer systems to cover failure of critical equipment when the clocks strike midnight and signal the new millennium.”

A report of the Morecambe Bay Hospitals NHS Trust said it was expected to cost £500,000 to protect hospital services.

Thankfully, there was more money for services and the approach of the new millennium also saw the opening of a £315,000 development at Furness General by the town’s MP and minister of state for health, John Hutton.

The refurbished high dependency and medical wards and a new admissions ward were toured by the Labour MP on Friday, November 19 in 1999.

Morecambe Bay Hospitals Trust chiefexecutive Ian Cumming said: “The new wards set the standard for the rest of the hospital and our plan is to repeat this investment throughout the whole hospital. It will take a few years but we will do it.” Mr Hutton said: “Investment like this is visible proof that we are improving our NHS.”

In December 1999 staff at the hospital’s special care baby unit welcomed the arrival of a £2,000 syringe pump from magazine Candis and Bliss - a new national charity to help new-born children.

It would be used to gently pump fluids or medication into the veins or arteries of babies.