Pagers to be banned from the NHS after successful pilot
PUBLISHED: 16:01 24 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:19 24 February 2019
Pagers will be banned from the NHS within the next three years following a successful pilot project at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.
Staff will instead use mobile phones and apps in a bid to cut costs, improve communication and free up time for doctors and nurses, health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock said.
The pilot at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) in 2017 saved junior doctors 48 minutes per shift and nurses 21 minutes on average.
The NHS uses around 130,000 pagers at an annual cost of £6.6 million, and more than one in 10 of the world’s pagers are used by the NHS.
The “outdated” technology only offers one-way communication, which means doctors are often unaware how urgent a request is and face difficulties deciding how to prioritise patients.
Health officials say mobile phones make it easier to share information and offer a cheaper alternative.
Most mobile phone companies have stopped supporting pagers and a single device can now cost up to £400.
Mr Hancock said the health service must “harness the huge potential of technology” to save lives and ease pressure on the workforce.
“Every day, our wonderful NHS staff work incredibly hard in what can be challenging and high-pressured environments,” he said.
“The last thing they need are the frustrations of having to deal with outdated technology - they deserve the very best equipment to help them do their jobs.
“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to communicate which allow doctors and nurses to spend more time caring for patients rather than having to work round outdated kit.”
The WSFT pilot project used Medic Bleep, a messaging and calling system similar to Whatsapp, with enhanced data protection.
Nick Jenkins, WSFT medical director, said: “As a global digital exemplar trust, we’re always keen to explore new digital opportunities that could improve experience for staff and patients.
“There is scope for Medic Bleep to be used for everything from arranging shift cover to sharing patient observations.
“For us, it’s about a digital tool helping our communications to become more efficient. 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.”