The NHS still owns - and uses - almost 9,000 fax machines

A poll by the Royal College of Surgeons revealed NHS trusts are hanging onto outdated technology

fax machine with send button pressed

The NHS is relying on legacy technologies, according to a study by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), with almost 9,000 fax machines still in use across the country.

The organisation asked 124 NHS trusts in England to take part in a poll about the technologies they're reliant upon to run their practices and 95 returned responses to its questions.

The Freedom of information Request revealed that in total, the NHS is using almost 9,000 of the outdated machines, many of which are used to send information to other departments and services in the community. 40% of trusts reported using more than 100 fax machines; Newcastle Upon Tyne own the most fax machines, with 603 in operation, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust is using 400 fax machines and Barts Health NHS Trust comes third, with 369 still in service.

Of the trusts that responded to RCS' request, only ten reported that they didn't have a single fax machine in use. This tallies with a similar piece of research into DeepMind Health from last year, which found the NHS to be the largest buyer of fax machines in the world. 

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"NHS hospital trusts remain stubbornly attached to using archaic fax machines for a significant proportion of their communications. This is ludicrous," Richard Kerr, chair of the RCS commission on the future of surgery. 

He added that the organisation must stop relying on technology that the majority of private sector organisations scrapped decades ago, and pointed out the illogical nature of investing in advanced healthcare technologies like AI and robotics while so much of the NHS' communications infrastructure is based such obsolete technology.

"As digital technologies begin to play a much bigger role in how we deliver healthcare, it's absolutely imperative that we invest in better ways of sharing and communicating all of the patient information that is going to be generated."

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