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Oscar Williams

News editor

The NHS’s obsession with fax machines is putting patient confidentiality at risk

The NHS has retained its “dubious” title as the world’s biggest buyer of fax machines, according to a new report that declares “the digital revolution has largely bypassed the health service”.

The research, commissioned by Google DeepMind Health, found that doctors and nurses were resorting to messaging apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp to send patient scans.

The report’s findings have now been corroborated by the BBC’s Jane Wakefield, who spoke to doctors who were concerned that the practice could damage patient confidentiality.

GP Alisdair MacNair said he was aware of WhatsApp groups used to discuss patients: “I have also seen chat on Facebook groups that sails pretty close to the wind in terms of discussing medical information.

“I’ve definitely seen stuff which is one step away from being patient identifying.

“I’m very wary of going near anything like that because of the risk of breaching data laws, but it would appear others don’t seem to be aware of the risks.”

DeepMind Health commissioned the independent report as an annual review of its work with the health service. It was published after the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled earlier this week that the Royal Free Hospital Trust had failed to comply with data protection law when it handed DeepMind 1.6 million patients’ records in 2015.

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