Matt Hancock bans pagers from NHS hospitals

Pagers will be banished from the NHS within the next three years, the Health Secretary has announced.

Staff will instead use mobile phones and apps in a bid to cut costs, improve communication and free up time for doctors and nurses, Matt Hancock said.

The NHS uses more than one in 10 of the world’s pagers, with 130,000 of the devices costing around £6.6 million annually, according to a 2017 report.

Matt Hancock is a self-confessed technology enthusiast (David Mirzoeff/ PA)
Matt Hancock is a self-confessed technology enthusiast (David Mirzoeff/ PA)

The “outdated” technology only offers one-way communication, which means doctors are often unaware how urgent a request is and face difficulties deciding how to prioritise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“The last thing they need are the frustrations of having to deal with outdated technology – they deserve the very best equipment to help them do their jobs.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to communicate which allow doctors and nurses to spend more time caring for patients rather than having to work round outdated kit.”

NHS trusts have been told they have until the end of 2021 to phase out pagers.

However some have already embraced alternatives.

Communications app Medic Bleeps, which is comparable to WhatsApp, saved junior doctors 48 minutes per shift and nurses 21 minutes on average during a 2017 pilot project at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

NHS Trusts will be allowed to keep some pagers for emergency situations, such as when WiFi fails.