Secondary Care

NHS fax machines still gleaming: RCS finds over 8,000 owned by hospitals

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has revealed that NHS hospital trusts own over 8,000 fax machines. Richard Kerr, chair of the Royal College of Surgeons’ Commission on the Future of Surgery, has criticised the health service’s reliance on a technology that was in popular use about the last time England were in a World Cup semi-final.

Kerr said it was farcical that the NHS was investing in artificial intelligence and robot-assisted surgery, while at the same time persisting in using outdated technology to communicate and share information. A report by DeepMind Health in 2017 named the NHS as the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines.

Freedom of Information requests made by the RCS show that NHS hospital trusts in England own a whopping 8,209 fax machines. Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust relies on an astonishing 603 fax machines. Barts Health NHS Trust owns 369 machines and Stockport NHS Foundation Trust owns 250.

Mr Richard Kerr, RCS Council member and chair of the Commission on the Future of Surgery, said: “Fax machines were in popular use about the last time England were in a World Cup semi-final. Despite all the years of hurt, NHS fax machines are still gleaming. The advances we are beginning to see in the use of artificial intelligence and imaging for healthcare, as well as robot-assisted surgery, promise exciting benefits for NHS patients. As the RCS’s Commission on the Future of Surgery is discovering, there is so much more to come. Yet, alongside all of this innovation, NHS hospital trusts remain stubbornly attached to using archaic fax machines for a significant proportion of their communications. This is ludicrous.

“As digital technologies begin to play a much bigger role in how we deliver healthcare, it’s absolutely imperative that we invest in better ways of sharing and communicating all of the patient information that is going to be generated. The NHS cannot continue to rely on a technology most other organisations scrapped in the early 2000s.”

NHS hospital trusts that own the most fax machines 

NHS hospital trust Number of fax machines
The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 603
Barts Health NHS Trust 369
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 250
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 250
Stockport NHS Foundation Trust 250
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust 237
Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust 235
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 234
Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust 215