Ofcom warned fax proposals could hit NHS
UK proposal to end support for fax machines could have a significant impact on the UK medical sector, with many hospitals still relying on the outdated technology for communications purposes.
Last week, UK communications regulator Ofcom launched a consultation on changes to telecoms rules that could see the end of the fax machine.
In its announcement, Ofcom said that digital technology and broadband services have officially taken over and deemed fax machines redundant. Its proposals mean that telecom providers will no longer be required to provide fax services under the universal service obligation (USO), which ensures that fixed telephone services are made available across the UK.
But the proposals could have a significant impact on the UK medical sector, with many hospitals and GP surgeries still relying on fax machines. A 2019 study from the Royal College of Surgeons revealed more than 8,000 fax machines were still in use in hospital trusts across the country, with thousands more also being used in GP surgeries.
This prompted NHS bosses to ban the acquisition of new fax machines, although reports this summer suggest as many as 800 could still be in use this year.
Speaking at the Web Summit 2022, Philips chief medical officer Atul Gupta acknowledged the continued use of the outdated tech in his sector.
He told TechInformed: “I live in an era where we still use beepers and fax machines in hospitals.”
The current set of rules on fax machines were written almost 20 years ago in 2003 when the devices were more common and digital communication such as email was less prevalent.
This meant that the two designated telecoms providers responsible for universal service in the UK – BT and KCOM (in the Hull area only), were required to provide fax services.
The general agreement is that there are now many free and low-cost alternatives available in place of fax machines.
As part of its consultation, the communications regulator is asking for feedback before December 1st and expects to publish a statement in early 2023.
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