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‘They should buy a VCR next’: Doctor’s frustration as he reveals Welsh NHS still use fax machines

27 Jan 2022 3 minute read
Dr. Karl Davies speaking to the Health Committee

A doctor has expressed his frustration as he revealed that NHS Wales still uses fax machines.

Speaking to the Senedd’s Health and Social Care Committee, Dr Karl Davies, who is Vice-Chair of the British Geriatrics Society, said that he had one request.

“No more fax machines,” he said. “We have just bought a fax machine for the new hospital.

“For heaven’s sake – what are we doing? GPs fax referrals into the emergency unit. I never see it. Why is that not emailed to me?

“Because I can’t deal with the emergency information if the emergency information doesn’t get to me.”

Conservative Senedd Member Russell George asked: “It can’t have been a new fax machine, can it? Do they still manufacture them?”

Dr Karl Davies replied: “We were going to challenge them next to buy a VCR. Betamax, and see if they could do that,” he said, before adding: “Sorry probably not appropriate for a council.”

Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, later called for fax machines to be phased out from NHS Wales with immediate effect. The NHS in England has not been allowed to buy fax machines since January 2019.

“It’s ridiculous, in this day and age that a new Welsh hospital has had to buy a fax machine so that it can follow outdated processes still used in parts of the NHS,” Rhun ap Iorwerth said.

“It says a lot about the need to drag the NHS in Wales into the 21st Century.

“This must change. Welsh Government’s hope that usage would decline naturally over time has not been borne out, and so they must now put steps in place to ensure this technology – and all the costs that go with maintaining these old machines – are phased out, starting now.

“If a news outlet wants to run this story, they may need to include an explainer on what a fax machine is – that’s how archaic the technology is! Our hospitals should not be relying on this form of communication and certainly not in the case of emergencies.”

A fax machine scans an image or a document line by line, then transmits that scan to a receiver where it’s printed out and reproduced.


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Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
6 months ago

Is it me or are those hundreds of fax/copier/scanner/printers available on the web not standard kit?

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

Sadly I think it’s you! For quite a few years, probably the past decade (at least) the NHS was the UK’s largest (only?) purchaser of dedicated fax machines. Until about a decade ago local authorities also had an annoying habit of using this obsolete technology for such mission critical functions as offender risk assessments. Just what everyone needed, indecipherable scrawl trasmitted low-res down a phone line, upon which to decide whether someone was safe to be around or not. Apparently e-mail was ‘too insecure’, yet encrypted e-mail has been around for decades. However, there is a tendency in the public… Read more »

Dim problem
Dim problem
6 months ago

Solicitors and banks also use fax machines… it’s not the end of the world.

Dail y Goeden
Dail y Goeden
6 months ago

Don’t be too hard on the poor old 1980’s technology. I still remember delight and serendipity on happening to visit a business exhibition in 1986 and seeing a demonstration of the brand-new “facsimile technology”. In brilliant marketing they had a stall by the entrance to the hall and “ambushed” each of us as we came in. We had to doodle a doodle, and sign it – and then walk or run to the fax reception station at the far end of the hall – “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” was the prize for anyone who got… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 months ago

Dr Karl Davies sideswipe at the Welsh NHS forgets that only recently the English NHS were using computers with Windows 95 on.

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