A north MSP is calling on the Scottish Government to help phase out fax machines across NHS boards.
Labour’s Shadow Health Minister David Stewart believes that keeping some machines as a back-up in cases of IT failures is sensible – but far too many are still in existence in a costly option which should have been scrapped decades ago.
Following the submission of an FOI to health boards across the north, results indicated hundreds of fax machines remain in operation across the north and north-east.
NHS Grampian said they have about 400 machines – but are in the process of phasing them out.
Mr Stewart said: “The NHS is way behind other organisations and private companies which scrapped fax machines more than a decade ago.
“It’s about time our health authorities were in step with technological advances and used secure emails instead.
“There is an argument that some fax machines should be kept in case of IT system failures, for contingencies, and that seems sensible, but I cannot believe that such a large number are needed from day to day.
“The Scottish Government should be on top of this and invest in more modern communication systems. In the end it must save money and time.”
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In the Western Isles 18 machines have been retained for the last three years following “concerns over a communication outage”, as NHS Shetland maintained a total of 15 within the same time frame.
To the north and east, 28 machines remain in Orkney, whilst NHS Grampian outlined that the 400 devices scattered across the north-east “were in the process of being phased out.”
Despite exact figures being unavailable for the Highland region, a spokesman from NHS Highland said the machines remain at various locations including GP surgeries and hospitals to maintain continuity.
He said: “NHS Highland has embraced the use of modern technology to communicate with staff and patients, including the use of the ‘NHS Near Me’ service, which allows patients to access services from their own home. We still have fax machines on site at hospitals, health centres and offices across Highland as part of our business continuity plans. NHS Highland no longer purchase fax machines.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We recently announced a significant investment which will see a new single digital platform installed across all NHS boards, improving efficiency and making it easier for staff to work together.
“The potential £80 million investment over five years will mean that all 161,000 NHS employees will have access to upgraded Microsoft Office desktop products, helping to further increase robustness against cyber threats, and improving the security of patient data.”
More than 1,205 fax machines are currently being operated by Scottish Health Boards across the country.