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Leeds NHS trust vows to dump its fax machines by 2019

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has launched a campaign to get rid of its fax machines by January 2019 in a bid to remove paper and champion innovation

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust plans to get rid of nearly all of its 340 fax machines by next January and use safer methods to communicate.

The trust’s “Axe the fax” campaign aims to remove 95% of its machines and replace them with alternative, quicker and better ways to share information.

The NHS is one of the world’s biggest fax machine buyers and, according to the Royal College of Surgeons, there are almost 9,000 in use across the health service, while the Labour Party puts the number at 11,500. 

The trust’s chief digital and information officer (CDIO), Richard Corbridge, said it is a huge challenge to try to remove all the fax machines in such a short space of time, but added that the trust “simply cannot afford to continue living in the dark ages”.  

Corbridge said staff have so far been positive about the campaign, and recognise that “on the one hand, we have hugely innovative technology being implemented in the trust and on the other, we have technology that hasn’t existed for decades in other industries”.

He added: “The use of nhs.net is far more secure and safe than the use of faxes. We are aiming to help services safely decommission their faxes and move to email in the first instance and take it from there.”

In an interview with Computer Weekly earlier this year, Corbridge said he was on a mission to improve the way healthcare organisations and their clinicians use data to improve patient care. 

The campaign to axe its fax machines is part of this mission. Currently, wards send paper requests for admissions which need to be logged on the trust’s patient administration system via internal fax. The trust aims to get rid of this process and make the admissions process easier and more efficient.

Emergency medicine consultant and chief clinical information officer at the trust, Andy Webster, said one of his biggest concerns with using fax machines is: “Has it been sent to the right machine, been read by the right person, and have appropriate actions been taken?”

Webster added: “That is why we are in the process of developing a modern auditable referral system that is embedded within our electronic health record.”

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has spent a decade building its own electronic health record, and is often recognised as a leader in creating its own system. However, the trust’s 16,000 employees currently use more than 460 IT systems, which it is working on consolidating.

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