Leeds hospital launches campaign to 'axe the fax'

Northern NHS trust to scrap 300-plus relics by new year

Leeds hospital is bragging about a major IT project that would set it apart from the wider NHS – it plans to "axe the fax" by the new year.

A report from the Royal College of Surgeons earlier this year found there were more than 8,000 fax machines loitering in NHS trusts across the UK. Reg readers were aghast.

Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust – which has 340 of the outdated appliances across its seven sites – today launched a campaign aimed at ditching 95 per cent of them by 1 January 2019.

The trust said it had already expunged 20 of the comms devces and is working to identify how to replace the rest.

"We don't underestimate the enormity of the challenge to remove all the machines in such a short time frame, but we simply cannot afford to continue living in the dark ages," said chief digital and information officer Richard Corbridge.

"The use of nhs.net is far more secure and safe than the use of faxes. We are aiming to help services safely decommission their faxes and move to email in the first instance and take it from there."

He said that staff had been positive about removing faxes from their working lives, albeit decades later than most in the private sector.

The NHS has a famously chequered past with projects to upgrade IT systems, but its reliance on fax has been a bone of contention.

Health secretary and former Minster of Fun Matt Hancock has indicated he intends to put tech at the heart of NHS reform, and recently backed calls to ditch fax machines, saying they were "downright dangerous".

The Leeds trust – possibly angling for some Brownie points from the new secretary of state – agreed, pointing to problems ensuring that information is sent to the right machine, then read by the right person, and then acted on properly.

As such, it is aiming to introduce an auditable referral system that is embedded in the electronic health record.

The trust has also rolled out managed print service devices, which will gather information on the way data is sent around the trust and can be used to plan the next phase of the work.

Change is already afoot, though, as some 47,905 documents were sent by electronic means other than fax, between April and August. Eventually, it plans to remove the option to send a fax from these devices altogether.

So confident is the Leeds trust in its abilities that it is offering its pearls of wisdom to other organisations – they can email axethefaxenquiries@nhs.net for support and encouragement. ®

Is this reminding you of a fax facts-based tale of tech support terror? Get in touch with On-Call columnist Rebecca Hill to share your story here.

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