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.