News, Secondary Care

NHS banned from buying fax machines

Matt Hancock has banned the NHS from buying fax machines and has ordered a complete phase-out by April 2020.

NHS trusts will instead be required to invest in new technology to replace outdated systems.

The ban on buying fax machines takes effect from January 2019. They will be phased out by 31 March 2020. NHS organisations will be monitored on a quarterly basis until they declare themselves ‘fax free’.

A freedom of information request revealed in July that more than 8,000 fax machines are still being used by the NHS in England

From April, NHS organisations will be required to use modern communication methods, such as secure email, to improve patient safety and cyber security.

Sarah Bruce, Co-Founder and Director of Silver Buck, who 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. The March 2020 deadline needs to take this into account and the Axe the Fax campaign will continue to enable sharing of support and guidance so each organisations doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to achieve the same end goal.”

Richard Kerr, Chair of the Royal College of Surgeons’ Commission on the Future of Surgery, who carried our research earlier this year that determined that there were more than 8,000 fax machines in use across the NHS said: “Well done to Leeds Teaching Hospitals for leading the way and pledging to ‘axe the fax’.

We hope that other NHS trusts continue to take note and join the campaign. It is ludicrous that so much of the NHS is still reliant on fax machines to communicate. There are very exciting technologies coming down the road that promise to transform the way we provide medical care to patients. The NHS needs a modern communications system that matches up to these technological advances.”

The Axe the Fax campaign has received interest from more than 100 NHS organisations and has already received commitments from more than 20 trusts who have begun to strip out their machines.

Richard Corbridge, Chief Digital Information Office at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which initiated the campaign when it announced It would remove its 340 fax machines by the end of 2018 said: “There is a huge disjoint in the digitisation of the NHS. While some areas are looking at artificial intelligence, others are still faxing patient information from one area of the hospital to another.

Today’s announcement that fax machines will not be purchased from next month and be banned from March 2020 is a landmark in the Axe the Fax campaign, which has been locally led and driven and received huge buy-in not only from NHS organisations across the country but as far as the US and Australia.”