Use of fax machines in the NHS

Use of fax machines in the NHS

Before email became a common way to send messages, fax transmissions were the most popular way to deliver and send written communication quickly and electronically.

The continued growth of email and other electronic means of sharing data is leading towards a transition away from the use of faxes.

Alternatives to faxes

These include:

  • NHSmail – this enables health and care organisations to securely exchange clinical and other information via email. NHSmail is the only NHS approved method for exchanging patient data by email, but only if both sender and recipient use an NHSmail account or an equivalent. Read more at the NHSmail webpage.
  • Scanners – the combination of a document scanner, imaging software, and inter-operating email software can provide a platform for sending information.
  • Transfer of ‘structured messages’ – such as messages between pharmacy and GP practice systems where interoperability has been arranged.

Local transitions to NHSmail

If your GP practice is transitioning away from fax and to NHSmail, then consider working with your GP practice colleagues to determine the processes which will be involved for urgent prescriptions and for other necessary communications which previously had been made via fax.

GP practices may set up shared mailboxes that individual staff members can access so that messages can be accessed by the GP practice staff even if some staff are on sick leave or holiday.

Alternatives to faxes

Campaigns to reduce the need for faxes

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced in December 2018 that NHS organisations and GP practices should have fax machines phased-out by April 2020. It is part of the Health and Social Care Secretary’s tech vision, to modernise the health service and make it easier for organisations to use innovative technologies.

The announcement has resulted in several local ‘axe the fax’ campaigns targeted at GP practices.

Practical considerations for using fax machines

PSNC has published Briefing 053/17: Ten steps to help improve data and cyber security within your pharmacy which contains best practice guidance on processing or communicating sensitive information.

NHS England has issued advice on the use of fax machines:

  • only use fax where no other communication method is available;
  • before sending a fax, confirm with the recipient that the number is correct; and
  • after sending a fax, confirm with the recipient that they have correctly received your transmission.

Further info

If you have queries on this webpage or you require more information please contact To share and hear views about digital developments with like-minded pharmacy team members, join the CP Digital email group today.



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