NHS hospital trusts across England still own over 8,000 fax machines, despite the communications technology having largely been replaced in most other sectors over the last few decades.
Freedom of Information requests made by the Royal College of Surgeons of England show that NHS hospital trusts still own a “whopping” 8,209 fax machines.
“Trusts remain stubbornly attached to using archaic fax machines for a significant proportion of their communications”
In addition, of the 95 trusts that responded to the FOI request by the college, around 40% reported they had more than 100 of the communications devices in use.
The top two were named as Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust with 603 fax machines and Barts Health NHS Trust with 369 machines.
The survey followed a report last year by artificial intelligence company DeepMind Health, which named the NHS as the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines.
The college’s survey forms part of its Commission on the Future of Surgery, which aims to set out a “compelling and credible vision” of the future advances in medicine and technology.
Due to be published in the autumn, it will consider developments in areas like minimally invasive surgery, robot-assisted surgery, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and 3D printing.
Mr Richard Kerr, chair of the commission, said it was “farcical” that the NHS was investing in advances like artificial intelligence, while at the same time using “outdated” technology to communicate and share information.
Mr Kerr, who is also an RCS council member, said: “The advances we are beginning to see in the use of artificial intelligence and imaging for healthcare, as well as robot-assisted surgery, promise exciting benefits for NHS patients.
“Yet, alongside all of this innovation, NHS hospital trusts remain stubbornly attached to using archaic fax machines for a significant proportion of their communications. This is ludicrous,” he said.
“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,” he said.
“The NHS cannot continue to rely on a technology most other organisations scrapped in the early 2000s,” he added.
NHS hospital trusts that own the most fax machines
- Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 603
- Barts Health NHS Trust – 369
- Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 250
- South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 250
- Stockport NHS Foundation Trust – 250
- Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust – 237
- Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust – 235
- Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 234
- Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust – 215