It's funny to remember every once in a while that the NHS does indeed force its staff to battle with fax machines on a daily basis, but that could soon be coming to an end. The government has yielded to doctor-led pressure group Axe the Fax and has decided to outlaw the purchasing of fax technology within the NHS from next year, with the aim of getting rid of the ancient hard messaging system completely by 2020.
The Department of Health has said that a thrilling new innovation called "email" – electronic messages sent between computers and appearing on associated screens without needing any paper at all – should be used instead. The government will monitor NHS trusts in the intervening period to make sure they're delivering on removing the old machines, and expects all trusts to eventually declare themselves "fax free" before the March 31, 2020 deadline.
But if that sounds too straightforward for the NHS, don't worry, it will obviously be a labyrinthine nightmare. A set of "open standards" are in development to ensure trusts' systems can talk to each other, and that a consultant's email can be read by someone in a different building, using a different device, on a different network. They will no doubt burn though billions of pounds on inventing something similar to Gmail that'll be ready a decade later than they originally envisaged. And it'll be 2045 at least before attachments can be attached, then 2055 before they can be opened.
Leeds Teaching Hospital's boss of digital Richard Corbridge thinks the fax ban is a great step in the right direction, though, saying: "Turning off the fax is a step in the delivery of integrated care and a leap forward in putting healthcare information in the right hands every time it is needed. We don’t underestimate the enormity of the challenge to remove all our machines in such a short time frame, but we simply cannot afford to continue living in the dark ages." [DoH via BBC]