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Ditching old pagers will save nurses 21 minutes per shift

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NHS hospitals have been told by the government to ditch “outdated” pagers by the end of 2021, in a move set to save nurses 21 minutes per shift.

Staff will instead be expected to use modern alternatives such as mobile phones and apps to communicate with each other at work.

“They deserve the very best equipment to help them do their jobs”

Matt Hancock

A pilot project at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust in 2017, trialling a Whatsapp-style messaging and calling system called Medic Bleep, saved junior doctors 48 minutes per shift and nurses 21 minutes on average.

The government announcement is the latest step in health and social care secretary Matt Hancock’s vision to fully digitise the health service with support from the newly formed tech unit NHSX.

He has also formerly called on trusts to phase out fax machines and swap letters for emails to communicate with patients by 2020.

“Every day, our wonderful NHS staff work incredibly hard in what can be challenging and high-pressured environments,” Mr Hancock said.

“The last thing they need are the frustrations of having to deal with outdated technology – they deserve the very best equipment to help them do their jobs,” he added. 

Mr Hancock said email and mobile phones were a ”more secure, quicker and cheaper way” to communicate, which would allow doctors and nurses to spend more time caring for patients. 

Health and social care secretary

Matt Hancock

Source: Department of Health and Social Care

Matt Hancock

More than one in 10 of the world’s pagers are used by the NHS at an annual cost of £6.6m.

Most mobile phone companies have phased out support for pagers, leaving only one provider in the UK – meaning a single device can cost up to £400.

Pagers also only offered a one-way form of communication and the recipient of the bleep was unaware of who was contacting them, the reason why or the level or urgency, noted the Department of Health and Social Care.

It said these factors could “interrupt work, waste time, make the prioritisation of tasks difficult and the evidence trail of communications is limited”.

NHS trusts will, however, be allowed to keep some pagers for emergency situations, such as when wifi fails or when other forms of communication are unavailable.

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