NHS using 9,000 fax machines

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
13 July 2018

NHS hospital trusts across England own almost 9,000 fax machines, according to the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS).

The RCS said it was “farcical” that in an age of artificial intelligence and robotics the health service was reliant on technology that “most organisations scrapped in the early 2000s”.

Freedom of information requests sent by the RCS showed trusts owned 8,946 fax machines, with Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust owning the most with 603. Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust owned 400 and Barts Health NHS Trust 369.

Last year research showed the NHS was the largest purchaser of fax machines in the world.

A report, from Deepmind Health, said: “The digital revolution has largely bypassed the NHS, which, in 2017, still retains the dubious title of being the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines.”

Richard Kerr, RCS Council member and chair of the Commission on the Future of Surgery, said despite advances such as robot-assisted surgery, “NHS hospital trusts remain stubbornly attached to using archaic fax machines for a significant proportion of their communications”.

“This is ludicrous,” he said.

“The NHS cannot continue to rely on a technology most other organisations scrapped in the early 2000s.”

In June the Labour Party said there were at least 11,620 fax machines in use across the NHS in England, costing £137,000 a year to maintain.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told the Huffington Post: “Not only does our NHS face a repair bill of £5bn, not only has it become reliant on old out of date equipment with even one hospital using an X-ray machine from 1984, it’s also still reliant on thousands of fax machines, with a repair bill in the hundreds of thousands.”

Last year the NHS was revealed as the largest user of pagers in the world, spending £6.6m on them each year.

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