Health secretary orders NHS phase out fax machines

The health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has banned the purchase of more fax machines within the NHS, and has ordered a complete phase out by April 2020.

As part of the tech vision to modernise the NHS and make it easier to introduce technologies, it will be required to use modern communication methods to improve patient safety and cyber security, and invest in new technology to replace outdated systems.

NHS organisations will be monitored on a quarterly basis until they declare themselves “fax free”. Digital services and IT systems will have to meet a set of standards to ensure they can talk to each other across organisational boundaries and be continuously upgraded. Systems that don’t meet the required standard will be phased out and the government will look to end contracts with providers who do not understand their principles for the health and care sector.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust launched a campaign to axe 95% of its 350+ fax machines by the end of 2018.

Richard Corbridge, chief digital and information officer at Leeds Teaching Hospital who initiated the Axe the Fax campaign, said: “Turning off the fax is a step in the delivery of integrated care and a leap forward in putting healthcare information in the right hands every time it is needed.

“We don’t underestimate the enormity of the challenge to remove all our machines in such a short time frame, but we simply cannot afford to continue living in the dark ages.

“The ‘axe the fax’ campaign aims to empower staff rather than disarm them and so far the feedback has been positive – staff are recognising that on the one hand we have hugely innovative technology being implemented in the trust and on the other we have technology that hasn’t existed for decades in other industries.”

The health secretary had previously said he wanted to reduce the number of fax machines in the health service as part of a change in approach to procurement at a recent GovTech summit in Paris.

Sarah Bruce, Co-Founder and Director of Silver Buckwho developed and supported The Leeds Teaching Hospitals in the roll out the Axe the Fax Campaign said: “Over half of medical errors are a result of miscommunication, and the continued use of fax machines has played a part in that. Organisations are coming from very different starting points, some are fax free whereas others are barely using NHSMail as a means of communication.”

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