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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?

R A, Community pharmacist

Dear Mr Hancock,

If you want to save the NHS then please tell people who develop chronic illnesses due to poor lifestyle choices to start taking responsibility for their own health. You will be surprised by the burden that would be removed from the NHS if people had a more healthy diet and did more exercise. 

This would then allow the limited resources of NHS to be deployed to treat cancer and neurological illnesses such as dementia and Parkinsons which is indiscriminate.  

Please grow a backbone and start making the public more responsible for their own health rather than being a jobsworth and banning fax machines which are a cheap, simple and cost-effective way to share information and has worked well for the last two decades!

max falconer, Superintendent Pharmacist

Yes very old fashioned technology, lets get rid of any technology more than 25 years old.

Who'll join me in a campaign to get rid of that most annoying insecure and non IG compliant of ancient technology the telephone?

C A, Community pharmacist

There are many areas in which surgeries already have! (done away with the phone, at least in terms of leaving phone messages to order scripts - you can ask the pharmacy to help with that!).

Farhat Ahmed, Locum pharmacist

and the NHS is running so well that the most urgent issue on Hancock's agenda is the fax machine. I am sure that I read earlier on in the year that he was banging on about all prescriptions being done via EPS by December 2018, Dear C & D why don't you go back and ask him what happened with that one.


C A, Community pharmacist

EPS CDs are still in pilot, and the R4 pilot has only started - so they are behind schedule. Surprise surprise!

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I presume fax machines will now be replaced with scanners

C A, Community pharmacist

That can email through scanned copies of paper scripts!

Paul Guest, Manager

“The NHS can be the best in the world – and we can start with getting rid of fax machines.”

What a clown!  He needs to cast his mind back to the £11 billion abandoned IT project in the NHS. 



Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I applaude this wholeheartedly. They should never have allowed the faxing of prescriptions. All it does is confuse and frustrate patients because you can't supply against a faxed prescription. Also, I hope he is forcing all GP practices ESPECIALLY dispensing doctors, to join the 21st Century and enable EPS, thereby fulfilling their obligation to follow patient wishes 

Really? Wow, Superintendent Pharmacist

Why can't you supply against a fax?

V K P, Community pharmacist

surely you should not be a superintendent pharmacist when you are asking this illegal question? only if C&D could verify the titles before allowing abuse of the titles.

John Cleese, Production & Technical

Illegal question? Calm down, dear. Read MEP 42, pages 46-47. It's possible, but carries risks. Like many other things we do, day in, day out.

Aldosterone antagonist, Locum pharmacist

Technically you shouldn't, realistically you would.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

The fax isn't a valid prescription, only evidence that one exists. The best you can hope for is to class it as an emergency supply at the request of a prescriber, with all the associated records and restrictions (Rx within 72 hours etc). Unfortunately, a lot of GPs don't see it like this and tend to take their own sweet time in sending the script. Also, you have to take in to account a degree of risk because there is nothing to prevent that script being faxed to several pharmacies. As I say, should never have been allowed in the first place

Kieran Eason, Superintendent Pharmacist

I've never had a dr follow the 72hour rule - they fax the script, then we ask them to post the real one to us- "no we're not wasting a stamp, come and pick it up"


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