Clinicians and staff at 19 hospitals in North East Scotland have been given specialised mobile handsets and messaging software in a bid to ditch outdated pagers.

Using Ascom UK’s i62 voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) around 4,000 staff at NHS Grampian are now able to communicate vital patient information within seconds rather than wasting time trying to find a landline or responding to pagers.

It is used in all situations except for emergency communication, with clinicians saying the headsets enable immediate notification of urgent referrals, helping to improve quality of care.

Senior IT managers say the integration of the technology with Intersystems’ TrakCare electronic patient records (EPR), the Ensemble integration and data platform, and the nurse call system on the Foresterhill Health Campus, has been “100% successful”.

Dr John Thomson, consultant gastroenterologist at NHS Grampian, said: “Besides the advantages of using a handheld rather than an old-fashioned ‘bleep’, Ascom’s integration with the health board’s other technology has helped improve the order of workflow and quality of data by enabling immediate notification of urgent inpatient referrals.

“Before Ascom we had just one stream of inpatient referrals – a phone call (via pagers) at a time that may have not been convenient to the on-call team.

“Now we have three streams: immediately life-threatening, urgent and routine. That has led to workflow efficiencies, plus improved patient safety and clinical governance of the referrals and subsequent clinical actions.

In February secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock announced NHS trusts will be required to phase out pagers by the end of 2021, with all hospitals expected to have plans and infrastructure in place to ensure this is possible by the end of September 2020.

Instead, staff are expected use modern alternatives, such as mobile phones and apps, which can deliver more accurate two-way communications at a reduced cost.

A pilot project using Medic Bleep was carried out at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT), which is one of the Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) sites, in 2017 and led to saving junior doctors 48 minutes per shift and nurses 21 minutes on average.

It was the latest in his war on outdated tech, with the Axe the Fax campaign to rid the NHS of fax machines. In December 2018 Hancock banned trusts from purchasing new fax machines beyond January 2019, with a complete phase-out of the technology by April 2020.