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Health secretary to ban pagers in the NHS

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has unveiled plans to ban doctors and nurses from using pagers, as part of a drive to modernise NHS technology.

The plans, announced today, will compel NHS trusts to phase out the technology by the end of 2021 and put in place steps to make it possible to do so by September 2020.

The task is likely to require a fundamental re-imagining of how medics communicate with each other in hospitals; the NHS owned 10 per cent of the world’s pagers in 2017, resulting in annual costs of £6.6m.

The Department for Health and Social Care claimed that a pilot project at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) in 2017, in which medics swapped pagers for a WhatsApp-type service called Medic Bleep, saved junior doctors 48 minutes and nurses 21 minutes per shift.

“There is scope for Medic Bleep to be used for everything from arranging shift cover to sharing patient observations,” said WSFT medical director Nick Jenkins.

“For us, it’s about a digital tool helping our communications to become more efficient. Contact with other clinicians can be made much more easily than with a physical bleep, and responses are much quicker. All that time we save can be spent caring for patients, so we benefit, but more importantly, our patients benefit too.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock said NHS staff “deserve the very best equipment to help them do their jobs”.

“We have to get the basics right, like having computers that work and getting rid of archaic technology like pagers and fax machines,” he added. “Email and mobile phones are a more secure, quicker and cheaper way to communicate which allow doctors and nurses to spend more time caring for patients rather than having to work round outdated kit.”

“We want to build a health and care service which is fully able to harness the huge potential of technology. This will save lives, support hard-working staff and deliver the cutting-edge care set out by our Long Term Plan for the NHS.”