Hancock bans pagers from NHS in latest salvo against ageing tech

Following on from his edicts against faxes and letters, health secretary takes aim at another old-school piece of kit

Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

NHS organisations have until the end of 2021 to get rid of pagers, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has declared.

There are currently 130,000 pagers in use across the health service – a figure which equates to more than one in 10 of the worldwide total, the government said. A reported £6.6m is spent on the technology by the NHS each year.

NHS bodies still using the technology will, over the coming months, be required to switch to alternatives such as communications apps or mobile phones.

The government pointed to a pilot project recently undertaken at West Suffolk Foundation Trust, in which pagers were replaced by Medic Bleep – a messaging platform “similar to WhatsApp, with enhanced data protection”.

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Trusts are being given until the end of September 2020 to install the infrastructure necessary to make the switch. They will then be given a further six months to take all remaining devices out of service.

The pager ban comes hot on the heels of a similar embargo on the use of fax machines – which the health secretary intends to eradicate from the health service by the end of March 2020. Hancock has also spoken of his desire for NHS staff to send emails rather than letters wherever possible.

He said: “We have to get the basics right, like having computers that work and getting rid of archaic technology like pagers and fax machines. Email and mobile phones are a more secure, quicker and cheaper way to communicate which allow doctors and nurses to spend more time caring for patients rather than having to work round outdated kit.”

Since 2017, there is only remaining network that provides extensive support for paging services across the UK: PageOne. The government claimed that the lack of choice in the market means that the cost of one device can be as much as £400. 

Other drawbacks cited include the lack of support for two-way communications and “sharing information on the move”.

Sam Trendall

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