Leading surgeons call for an end to 'absurb' use of fax machines by NHS

Published: 17-Dec-2018

More than 9,000 outdated machines still in use in England alone

England’s leading medics are supporting calls for NHS trusts to halt the continued use of archaic fax machines.

As part of an outdated practise described by Richard Kerr, chairman of the Royal College of Surgeons’ (RCS) commission on the future of surgery, as ‘absurd’; NHS trusts in England are still using more than 9,000 fax machines.

Earlier this year the Department of Health said a change to more-modern communication methods, such as secure email, was needed to improve patient safety and cyber security.

And this week the RCS said it supported the move, with Kerr saying it was ‘crucial’ that the health service invested in ‘better ways of communicating the vast amount of patient information that is going to be generated’ in the future.

The comments come after an RCS report revealed that 40% of trusts had more than 100 fax machines still in use.

Only 10 trusts who replied to a survey said they had no fax machines on their sites.

Speaking to BBH following the latest comments, Andrew Bruce, head of operations and delivery at quality assurance IT specialist, SQS, said: “Banning archaic technologies like fax machines from the NHS may seem like a sensible move, but it’s vital that replacement means of communication are reliable and secure.

“Usability and reliability are critical in NHS communications and medical staff will only use methods that are user-friendly and effective. Otherwise, workarounds and unauthorised third-party applications, like WhatsApp, will overtake secure channels.

“To combat this, clinicians and other staff who will be using the technology must be involved from the very-early stages, so that any solution – whether it is a new document management system or AI-enabled diagnostics – is fit for purpose and built specifically to fit their needs.

“The challenge with any public sector technology project is that it’s funded by public money and is understandably under scrutiny. So the priority for any project must be ensuring solutions will work for the people using them every day, the higher the chance of success.”

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