Leeds NHS trust vows to ‘axe the fax’ by New Year

Campaign launched to get rid of more than 300 machines still in service by the close of 2018

Credit: Kay Nietfeld/DPA/PA Images

Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust has launched its ‘Axe the Fax’ campaign, and aims to almost entirely eliminate the machines from its technology estate by the end of 2018.

The hospital has already got rid of 20 fax machines, but 340 are still in use across the trust. The goal is to dispense with 95% of these by 1 January. 

The trust is currently engaged in an exercise to map the location of all its current fax machines and ascertain what each is used for. Following the completion of this project, work will begin to identify how they could be replaced with newer and more cost-effective kit. 

Richard Corbridge, chief digital and information officer at the trust, said: “We don’t underestimate the enormity of the challenge to remove all the machines in such a short timeframe, but we simply cannot afford to continue living in the dark ages. The 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.”

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Hospital staff can send queries regarding the Axe the Fax scheme to a specially created email address. All messages received will be automatically allocated to a programme manager for further action. 

In preparation for the fax shutdown, a managed print service (MPS) has already been implemented. Between April and August, a total of 47,905 messages were sent using MPS that would otherwise have been sent via fax.

Andy Webster, a consultant in emergency medicine and the trust’s chief clinical information officer, said: “As a clinician, the major concern I have with fax is [whether it] has been sent to the right machine, been read by the right person, and appropriate actions have been taken. That is why we are in the process of developing a modern, auditable referral system that is embedded within our electronic health record.”

Recent research from the Royal College of Surgeons found that NHS hospital trusts across England still operate a cumulative total of more than 8,000 fax machines. Although Leeds Teaching Hospital was not listed by the RCS among the biggest fax owners, the trust’s own self-declared total of 340 machines would put it third on the list – behind only Barts Health NHS Trust with 369, and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust with a whopping 603.

Sam Trendall

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