Fax machines will be banned across the NHS under plans to overhaul outdated technology and IT systems.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has banned the purchasing of fax machines in the health service from next month, and has ordered the NHS to phase out the outdated machines by March 31 2020.
By then, all NHS organisations will be required to use modern communication methods, such as secure email, to improve patient safety and cyber security, the Department of Health said.
The Royal College of Surgeons estimated in July that more than 8,000 fax machines are still being used by the NHS.
Richard Kerr, chair of the Royal College of Surgeons Commission on the Future of Surgery, said: “Earlier this year, work undertaken for the RCS’s Commission on the Future of Surgery revealed that NHS hospital trusts own over 8,000 fax machines. This is absurd.
“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.”