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The NHS remains “stubbornly attached” to using “archaic” fax machines, surgeons warn

The NHS remains stubbornly beholden to more than 8,000 fax machines, according to a damning report by the Royal College of Surgeons.

Richard Kerr, chair of the college’s future of surgery commission, questioned the logic in depending on the outdated technology to communicate, while the health service is increasing investment in cutting-edge AI and robotics.

“Alongside all of this innovation, NHS hospital trusts remain stubbornly attached to using archaic fax machines for a significant proportion of their communications,” he said. “This is ludicrous.”

Through freedom of information requests, the college found that a number of hospitals still use hundreds of fax machines to communicate and share patient data. Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust owns a record 603 fax machine, the survey found.

“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,” Kerr added. “The NHS cannot continue to rely on a technology most other organisations scrapped in the early 2000s.”

Last year, a report by Google DeepMind found that the NHS was still the world’s biggest buyer of fax machines and that it had been largely bypassed by the digital revolution. The research revealed that doctors and nurses were resorting to messaging apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp to share patient scans, putting patient confidentiality at risk.