Trusts will no longer be allowed to purchase the technology from January
Health and social secretary Matt Hancock has banned fax machines across the NHS.
From January, health-service organisations will no longer be allowed to buy new fax machines. Over the following 15 months, NHS bodies will be assessed on a quarterly basis until they are found to be “fax-free”, the government said. The intention is that faxes will be eliminated from use entirely by 31 March 2020.
The use of “modern communication methods, such as secure email” will be mandatory from April. This, the government said, “will improve patient safety and cybersecurity”.
Meanwhile, open standards will be introduced across the NHS to ensure the interoperability of IT systems and digital services. Technology that does not meet these standards “will be phased out and the government will look to end contracts with providers who do not understand these principles for the health and care sector”.
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The NHS-wide ban on fax machines comes in light of an ‘Axe the Fax’ campaign led by Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust. The trust, which previously operated several hundred of the machines, aims to eradicate almost all of them by the start of next year.
Richard Corbridge, chief digital and information officer at Leeds Teaching Hospital, said: “Turning off the fax is a step in the delivery of integrated care and a leap forward in putting healthcare information in the right hands every time it is needed.”
The NHS is often cited as the world’s biggest remaining user of fax machines, with about 8,000 still in operation across England, according to recent research from the Royal College of Surgeons. The study found that many trusts still have hundreds of the devices in use, with Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust leading the way with a fleet of more than 600 faxes.