OK, it's early 2019. Has Leeds Hospital finally managed to 'axe the fax'? Um, yes and no

Shaking those digits is HARD: 'eFax' halfway-house to chuck machines and meet targets

An old fax machine with someone pushing a button

Leeds Hospital NHS Trust has created what it is calling an "electronic" fax in its bid to ditch the legacy message-slingers.

The hospital committed in September to remove all of its 350 fax machines in early 2019, and shortly after health minister Matt Hancock announced NHS trusts would be banned from buying the outdated devices.

In its efforts to scratch out fax machines, staff at the trust have been walking the corridors to hunt down devices tucked away, and encouraging users to part with their precious kit.

"The reception has been positive, and it's clear that services want to remove fax machines," said Helen Hochstrasser, project manager at the hospital.

"By reviewing telecom reports, to prioritise high and low usage areas, we found that a significant number of faxes are being sent across internal departments."

She said that now the aim is to figure out how to help staff "work differently" – i.e. stop sending the paper-based missives – and one of the ways is "eFax".

This is effectively a halfway house between a fax and email. The system allows people to send information digitally to an existing fax number, either online or via the eFax app. This means the physical machines can be destroyed – and thus brings the trust closer to meeting its self-imposed deadline.

The hope is that it will help smooth the transition for organisations that work with hospitals, like care homes or pharmacies, that are heavily reliant on their own fax machines.

As Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said when the fax ban was announced: "Pharmacies and nursing homes won't necessarily have access to the NHS email system." She added that they often need "something they can print and physically stick in their paper records".

The hope, said Leeds' computer services manager Chris Archer, is that the eFax solution will help organisations that are "struggling to relinquish their fax" carry on communicating with the trust. He added that the solution was "far more secure".

Although the government is hoping to see faxes banned across the entire health service, the scale of the problem is huge: in hospital trusts alone, there are 8,000 faxes creaking away.

Discussing Leeds Trust's own efforts, chief digital information officer Richard Corbridge said that they had "never underestimated the enormity of the task", but that it had recognised that eFax had to be "part of our digital transformation journey".

He added: "The initiative has been learning curve, but one that we needed to go through as it will now enable us to help others by sharing our progress, best practice and the lessons we have learned from this ongoing campaign." ®

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