NHS to ban fax machines from 2020

More than 8,000 outdated machines still in use across health service

Sunday 09 December 2018 01:40
Harry Leslie Smith on the NHS

Fax machines will be banned across the NHS in a bid to improve patient safety and cyber security.

The outdated technology will be phased out by 31 March 2020 under plans announced by health secretary Matt Hancock.

NHS organisations will be required to use modern communication methods instead, such as secure email.

Last year the NHS was named as the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines and it has been estimated that more than 8,000 of them are still being used across the health service.

However Mr Hancock has now banned the purchase of any further machines from next month.

Richard Kerr, chair of the Royal College of Surgeons Commission on the Future of Surgery, said it was “absurd” that NHS hospital trusts still used fax.

“Most other organisations scrapped fax machines in the early 2000s and it is high time the NHS caught up.

“The RCS supports the ban on fax machines that will come into place in March 2020.

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“Since we published our data on NHS fax machines, we’ve seen a number of trusts pledge to ‘axe the fax’.

“They have proved that with the right will and support, it is possible to modernise NHS communications.”

He added: “Advances in artificial intelligence, genomics and imaging for healthcare, promise exciting benefits for patients.

“As these digital technologies begin to play a bigger part in how we deliver healthcare it is crucial that we invest in better ways of communicating the vast amount of patient information that is going to be generated.

In May 2017, then-health secretary Jeremy Hunt was accused of ignoring ”extensive warning signs” over outdated computer systems in the health service, in the wake of a crippling cyberattack.

The weakness raised concerns over trusts using Windows XP software, which had not been updated since the government cancelled a support contract with manufacturer Microsoft in 2015.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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