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Pharmacies must comply with NHS fax machine ban 'as soon as possible'

Matt Hancock: Everywhere else got rid of archaic fax machines ages ago
Matt Hancock: Everywhere else got rid of archaic fax machines ages ago

The health secretary has ordered the NHS to ban all fax machines by 2020, and expects primary care – including community pharmacies – to follow suit.

NHS trusts will be banned from purchasing fax machines from next month and use of all existing machines will be phased out by March 31, 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) announced on Sunday (December 9).

From April 2020, all NHS organisations will be required to use “modern communication methods, such as secure email, to improve patient safety and cyber security”, it added.

C+D has since learned that the DH expects community pharmacies to follow suit and switch remaining fax machines over to email as soon as possible.

Fax machines “archaic”

Explaining the NHS fax ban, health secretary Matt 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.

“Email is much more secure and miles more effective than fax machines,” he added. “The NHS can be the best in the world – and we can start with getting rid of fax machines.”

The DH also pointed to a freedom-of-information investigation by the Telegraph newspaper in July, which revealed that more than 8,000 fax machines are still used by the NHS in England, with one hospital trust alone using more than 600.

The ban is part of Mr Hancock’s “tech vision”, which includes a call for the “inconsistent” ability to share records between community pharmacies, hospitals, GPs and care providers to be improved.

How often do you use a fax machine in your pharmacy?

A Long Serving Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Until ALL GP surgeries send ALL scripts via EPS then the fax machine will always be a useful and used tool. I am a Locum and a lot of surgeries still do not use the EPS system. Many of these same surgeries don’t have any system in place to order repeats by phone but expect patients to order online, or, ‘go to your pharmacy and they will fax in your repeat’. They then send the green Rxs randomly to their favourite pharmacy regardless of who has ordered them. If the surgeries cannot be bothered to have a dedicated prescription order phone line then they can’t expect the pharmacies to fax in the repeat forms. ALL surgeries should have three ways to order repeats 1) drop in your repeat form into the surgery 2) phone to order your repeat yourself 3) accept an online order from the patient e.g.SystmOne. NONE  of these methods should involve any pharmacy placing a repeat request on behalf of the patient (except maybe for MDS). Until ALL surgeries have ALL these systems in place then the fax machine will have to remain. 

Pauline Wells, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

What about the LIVI scripts that are sent by out of hours GP's, they are all sent by fax.

John Cleese, Production & Technical

Also: fax machines are reliable. NHS mail is not. Next...

Andrew Morrison, Superintendent Pharmacist

And what about private prescriptions which are faxed? Hancock can whistle for this because I for one won't be doing this - I'd like to see him try and interfere in my business. How abot targetting GP practices which refuse to accept e-mail and faxes - AND ASK THAT CONFIDENTIAL DATA BE SENT BY ROYAL MAIL....

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

What's the bet, Matt Hancock will be gone by 2020?

Richard Dacombe, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

I'm emailing requests wherever possible as its sonmuch easier than faxing and have spoken to several surgeries to see if this can be the default way to send requests in.

Phil Goddard, Community pharmacist

Fax machines are handy for photocopying

Crazy Hayz, Community pharmacist

The main issue I have is that we are only allowed 3 people in the pharmacy to have an nhs mail account.  If they take away the fax option, discharge forms and query sheets for dosette patients may incur delays in acting upon which could pose a very real safety implication.  If they wanted to scrap faxing, they needed to take some time to understand how they are currently utilised and ensure that nhsmail is accessible and fit for purpose for the people that will need it.....which it currently is not! 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I'd rather have an R1 barcode then a faxed prescription any day of the week, even better, why aren't they supplying it on an R2 prescription? There's no reason to fax prescriptions any more. Please challenge my assumption.

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

Fax machines are used to send other information also, not only prescriptions! They are quick and easy to use especially for documents

Leon The Apothecary, Student

So are all-in-one printers. They can take entire reams of paper.

John Cleese, Production & Technical

If they ban faxes, we'll all just have to use Whatsapp instead.

Crazy Hayz, Community pharmacist

....which is not we can’t

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Hayz, incorrect. WhatsApp end-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you're communicating with can read what's sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp. Your messages are secured with locks, and only the recipient and you have the special keys needed to unlock and read your messages. For added protection, every message you send has an unique lock and key. All of this happens automatically.

C A, Community pharmacist

The only reason to not do it via EPS is that the pharmacy will (generally) see the fax and act on it faster. With EPS the surgery or patient would have to let the pharmacy know they are expecting an item - otherwise the item will sit on the spine until the next download (or the next day), and potentially get mixed with a large quantity of routine scripts which would delay them. 

But surgeries are far too busy to lift up a phone and engage in 'colaberative' working practices.

PARESH shah, Community pharmacist

I have a tide little fax machine which has been running for a good 15 years. I do not have space for an elaborate scanner. Who is going to pay for my refit of the dispensary and the scanner. MR HANCOCK ?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

They can be brought for under £20 and take up the same amount of space.

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

Wait till you start working in a busy dispensary!!

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

I’m not getting rid of my fax machine with thermal printing ‘technology’. Plus, Proscript even allows you to select ‘faxed prescription’ as part of the Rx types. Why is Matty trying to fix things that aren’t even broken?! 



Leon The Apothecary, Student

I suspect you will by 2020.

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

We should insist all prescriptions are sent by EPS . No more faxed scripts and no emails of images of scripts allowed. When one faxes a script request it is easy to check the resulting EPS against the faxed copy request .



Leon The Apothecary, Student

Agreed. Faxes are so redundant.

C A, Community pharmacist

"class it as an emergency supply at the request of a prescriber, with all the associated records and restrictions (Rx within 72 hours etc)" 


david williams, Community pharmacist

5.30PM Friday night. Trimethoprim 200mg bd for 3 days from the residential home faxed by the GP, -clear and signed. Why ban this accurate form of communication. Unless Mat is going to enlist microsoft to develop a secure quick multimillion pound solution. I thought we were were approaching Christmas not April 1st

s8chy P, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Lame attempt. There are so many better things to start with Mr Hancock.
How about all those salaried people 'working' in the CCGs. This is the biggest robbery of the NHS, I used to be one, no one does any work at all. What work they are given is contracted out l, leaving them again with no work to do. By the way, all on £50k salaries. Admins at CCGs is where our NHS money is draining. So so sad.

Andrew Paxton, Community pharmacist

All our local surgeries fax scripts. District nurses also do, and it takes ages for the script to turn up.

C A, Community pharmacist

Sounds like they should move to EPS scripts. That just leaves the problem of - 'The surgery said they sent it 5 minutes ago, why isn't it ready?' 

The answer for any one not in England - We haven't received it yet, EPS doesn't work that way. 

This coincidentally makes it pretty useless for 5.30pm nursing home emergencies. Shame they'll have to wait 'till the morning.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Bring upon an important point that EPS needs a better way of identifying urgent prescriptions at a glance.

C A, Community pharmacist

NHS digital are supposed to be working on that point - it was raised in their EPS enhancement survey last year. I remember it being on the response I got from them after I completed the survey.

V K P, Community pharmacist

the GPs still havenot mastered EPS and the sooner the fax machines are gone the better for the comunity pharmacy. this will save me an hour a day of mine and my staff time in chasing up faxed prescriptions which the GP should have sent through electronically in the first instance however could not be bothered to carry their smartcard with them and if they did, then it was very difficult for them to take it out of their bag and insert into the reader and then there is the small matter of them not remembering their password to the card as they have not used the card in all but 12 hours. its amazing how 5 years has worn out the brain cells and no more memory power is left for use.


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