Royal College of Surgeons criticises the NHS’ reliance on archaic tech

The Royal College of Surgeons is criticising the health service’s reliance on outdated technology as Freedom of Information requests reveal that NHS hospital trusts in England still own around 9,000 fax machines.


[London, UK] The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) is calling on the health service to modernise its IT infrastructure after finding that NHS hospital trusts in England are still using around 9,000 fax machines. 

The RCS criticised the heavy reliance on archaic technology as Freedom of Information requests revealed that Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust, one of the NHS’ Global Digital Exemplars, which are set to pave the way for widespread digitisation across health and care, owned more than 600 fax machines, and was not the only GDE with a significant number of them.

The RCS contacted 124 NHS hospital trusts in England, and thirty-eight organisations did not respond to the request or were not able to share the information.

Figures provided by the RCS to BJ-HC indicate that only ten NHS hospital trusts in England do not own any fax machines. That includes Wallsall Healthcare NHS Trust, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust GDE.

However, four in ten trusts were using more than 100 machines. 

Richard Kerr, RCS Council Member and Chair of the Commission on the Future of Surgery, said it was ‘farcical’ that the NHS was investing in Artificial Intelligence and robotic surgery, yet it still used technology that was popular ‘about the last time England were in a World Cup semi-final’.

Mr Kerr added:

“The advances we are beginning to see in the use of artificial intelligence and imaging for healthcare, as well as robot-assisted surgery, promise exciting benefits for NHS patients. As the RCS’s Commission on the Future of Surgery is discovering, there is so much more to come.

“Yet, alongside all of this innovation, NHS hospital trusts remain stubbornly attached to using archaic fax machines for a significant proportion of their communications. This is ludicrous.”

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