Health Secretary Matt Hancock has banned the NHS from buying fax machines and has ordered a complete phase-out by April 2020.
He said that trusts will instead be required to invest in new technology such as secure email to replace outdated systems.
The ban will take effect from January 2019 with aim of eliminating the use of faxes by 31 March 2020. NHS organisations will be monitored on a quarterly basis until they declare themselves ‘fax free’.
It is part of the Health and Social Care Secretary’s tech vision, to modernise the health service and make it easier for NHS organisations to introduce innovative technologies. This also involves the future compliance with open standards to support interoperability between digital systems.
In July the Royal College of Surgeons announced that a series freedom of information requests revealed that more than 8,000 fax machines are still being used by the NHS in England.
Hancock said: “Because I love the NHS, I want to bring it into the 21st century and use the very best technology available. We’ve got to get the basics right, like having computers that work and getting rid of the archaic fax machines still used across the NHS when everywhere else got rid of them years ago.
“I am instructing the NHS to stop buying fax machines and I’m setting a deadline for getting rid of them altogether. eMail is much more secure and miles more effective than fax machines. The NHS can be the best in the world – and we can start with getting rid of fax machines.”
Richard Kerr, chair of the Royal College of Surgeons Commission on the Future of Surgery, said: “Advances in artificial intelligence, genomics and imaging for healthcare promise exciting benefits for patients. As these digital technologies begin to play a bigger part in how we deliver healthcare it is crucial that we invest in better ways of communicating the vast amount of patient information that is going to be generated.
“Most other organisations scrapped fax machines in the early 2000s and it is high time the NHS caught up. The RCS supports the ban on fax machines that will come into place in March 2020.
“Since we published our data on NHS fax machines, we’ve seen a number of trusts pledge to ‘axe the fax’. They have proved that, with the right will and support, it is possible to modernise NHS communications.”
Image by Frankie Roberto, CC BY 2.0 through flickr