Matt Hancock is calling for clinicians to be able to directly email information to patients in a bid to increase data security and reduce delays and wastage.

Speaking at NHS England’s ‘Empowering people in the digital world’ conference on 13 February, the secretary of state for health and social care argued emails are as secure and cheaper than communicating through paper and fax machines.

“There is no reason why a doctor cannot email a patient confidentially, for example with their test results or prescription, rather than make them wait days for a letter or ask them to come into the surgery. The rest of the world runs on email – and the NHS should too.”

A letter lost in the post “could be the difference between life and death”, he argued.

“Having to deal with outdated technology is hugely frustrating for staff and patients alike.”

Having “signalled the end of archaic fax machines in hospitals and GP practices” – a directive from Hancock in December banned the NHS from buying any more machines – he said the next job was “to make it as easy as possible for GPs to communicate safely and securely with their patients and colleagues”.

He added that NHS organisations and GP practices will be able to use any email provider that meets their needs as well as required security settings – not just NHSmail.