The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has revealed that NHS hospital trusts still own a staggering 9,000 fax machines, making the health system the world’s largest buyer of a technology “that was in popular use about the last time England were in a World Cup semi-final.”
The report shows that the NHS is still lagging behind when it comes in digital investment, with a 2017 report in 2017 from DeepMind Health already having named it as the world’s largest purchaser of the outdated machines.
Richard Kerr, chair of the RCS Commission on the Future of Surgery, was critical of the NHS for using an outdated form of communication and information sharing, arguing it is “farcical” that the NHS is investing in artificial intelligence and robot-assisted surgery whilst persisting with such outdated technology.
Freedom of Information requests by the royal college revealed that 8,946 fax machines are owned by trusts in England, with Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS FT topping the list with 603 machines, followed by Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust with 400 and Barts Health NHS Trust with 369.
“Fax machines were in popular use about the last time England were in a World Cup semi-final. Despite all the years of hurt, NHS fax machines are still gleaming,” Kerr commented.
“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. The NHS cannot continue to rely on a technology most other organisations scrapped in the early 2000s.”