NHS Pager Ban Announced

Nicky Broyd

February 25, 2019

Pagers are to follow fax machines onto the technology scrap heap in England, the Health Secretary has announced.

"We’re determined to bring the NHS into the 21st century - so we’re banning pagers right across the NHS," Matt Hancock said on Twitter.

However, behind the bold hashtag #purgethepager was the admission that some pagers may be kept for emergencies, such as Wi-Fi failure or other technology outages.

The pager announcement at the weekend is part of the NHS England technology initiatives that are included in the NHS Long-Term Plan.

Technology Economics

While pagers were once cutting edge gadgets to alert doctors and medical staff on call they're now classified as expensive legacy systems – overtaken by apps and smartphones. There's now only one network still offering the service in the UK.

While other businesses and employers have been dropping pagers, the NHS uses more than 1 in 10 of those still connected around the world, according to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). That's costing £6.6 million a year for 130,000 pagers.

Reliable Alternatives

The DHSC expects NHS trusts to be rid of pagers by the end of 2021 with infrastructure and plans in place to do so by the end of September 2020.

They'll be replaced with cheaper mobile phones and special apps, such as the encrypted Medic Bleep system described as being similar to WhatsApp.

It was used in a 2017 pilot at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which the DHSC says saved 48 minutes per shift for junior doctors.

The Trust's Medical Director, Nick Jenkins, said in a statement: "There is scope for Medic Bleep to be used for everything from arranging shift cover to sharing patient observations.

"Contact with other clinicians can be made much more easily than with a physical bleep, and responses are much quicker. All that time we save can be spent caring for patients, so we benefit, but more importantly, our patients benefit too."

Matt Hancock said the last thing NHS staff need is "the frustrations of having to deal with outdated technology – they deserve the very best equipment to help them do their jobs.

"We have to get the basics right, like having computers that work and getting rid of archaic technology like pagers and fax machines. Email and mobile phones are a more secure, quicker and cheaper way to communicate which allow doctors and nurses to spend more time caring for patients rather than having to work round outdated kit."

Editor's Note: Do you have fond or other memories of pagers you'd like to share? Please use the comments link on this article.


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