Digital infrastructure5G & MobileNHS decommissions Pagers

NHS decommissions Pagers

NHS has more than 130,000 pagers at use, largest in the world, and would soon upgrade them with mobile and apps

Unlike NHS has decided to decommission the usage of pagers and replace them with modern technology as part of accomplishing complete digitisation. NHS aims to achieve this by the end of 2021. This is to enable the health and care system to make the best use of technology to support preventative, predictive and personalised care in line with NHS’s Long Term Plan.

Any system which does not meet the technology vision and the long-term plan will be phased. The trust is the biggest users of pagers not just the UK, but worldwide. As per the statement, all affiliated hospitals must put plans in place to replace pagers by September 2020.

Pagers and NHS

  • ~130,000: Pager users at NHS, more than one in 10 of the world’s pagers are used by the NHS.
  • £6.6 million: A annual cost for using pager technology
  • 1: Number of pagers providing companies in the UK – PageOne by Capita Plc’s
  • £400: cost of a single device
  • 48/21 minutes: Average time saved by junior doctors/nurses by replacing the pager technology as per a pilot project at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT)

Limitations of Pagers

Unable to provide two-way communication was the biggest drawback of pagers. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the NHS staff will instead use alternatives, such as mobile phones and apps for more accurate two-way communications at a reduced cost. Unlike mobile phones and apps, sharing information is not supported by pagers. Pager messages lack a sense of urgency, owing to the shortcoming of the technology that the unaware of the sender and the reason.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said, “Every day, our wonderful NHS staff work incredibly hard in what can be challenging and high-pressured environments. The last thing they need are the frustrations of having to deal with outdated technology – they deserve the very best equipment to help them do their jobs,” he said.

A “Bold” move

Chairperson of the consultants committee at British Medical Association, Dr Helen Fidler, called the decision as “bold”. “While encouraging, the results of a pilot of one app do not necessarily mean that such technology is suitable for every trust. Pagers are a tried tested technology trusted by doctors and the proposal to ultimately replace all hospital pagers with new technology is a bold one,” she said.

The usage of all the pagers at NHS would not be stopped though. A few devices and their service would be retained to cover emergency situations like failure of WiFi network or unavailability of alternate forms of communication.

The alternative

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) conducted a trial in 2017 and replaced its pagers with an app called Medic Bleep, an app “similar to WhatsApp” but with enhanced security. Private messaging, as well as both individual and group calling, were a few facilities provided by the app. Medic Bleep worked on phones, tablets and desktop computers.

“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”, Matt Hancock added.

Next on the radar

Next in the radar for phasing out are fax machines – around 9,000 documents are sent via fax machines at NHS. “We have to get the basics right, like having computers that work and getting rid of archaic technology like pagers and fax machines”, he said.

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