NHS hospitals have been accused of being “stubbornly attached” to fax machines as an FOI investigation revealed trusts own almost 9,000 of them.

FOI requests made by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) show that NHS hospital trusts in England own a total of 8,946 fax machines, which entered widespread commercial use in the 70s and 80s.

Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust relies on an astonishing 603 fax machines, with Barts Health NHS Trust owning 369 and Stockport NHS Foundation Trust having 250. A table showing the five trusts which own the most fax machines can be found below.

Richard Kerr, RCS Council member and chair of the Commission on the Future of Surgery, said: “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.”

“The advances we are beginning to see in the use of artificial intelligence and imaging for healthcare, as well as robot-assisted surgery, promise exciting benefits for NHS patients. As the RCS’s Commission on the Future of Surgery is discovering, there is so much more to come. Yet, alongside all of this innovation, NHS hospital trusts remain stubbornly attached to using archaic fax machines for a significant proportion of their communications. This is ludicrous.

“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.”

In a recent feature, published in June 2018, Dr Jonathon Bloor explored the possibility that the introduction of a “WhatsApp-style” instant messaging service for NHS workers could help the address “the use of pagers and fax machines as primary forms of clinical communication”.

 Biggest owners of fax machines by trust:

  • The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 603
  • Barts Health NHS Trust – 369
  • Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 250
  •  South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust  – 250
  • Stockport NHS Foundation Trust – 250