A report published this week has found that the National Health Service is spending millions of pounds on outdated – and even broken – electronic pagers.
Published by messaging company CommonTime, the new study examined the spending practices of 138 NHS trusts across England and found that 10 percent of the world’s pagers are used in NHS hospitals.
This is despite the limitations of this outdated technology and the millions of pounds that could be saved annually if the organisation moved to devices such as smartphones.
Waste of money
Currently, the NHS spends a staggering £6.6 million on these blunt instruments for communication purposes – while smartphones could deliver crucial information more effectively.
According to the report, top decision-makers within the NHS are still investing in pagers, even as doctors and other staff are calling for more modern means of frontline communication.
Key suppliers are already abandoning these ageing devices, and the report claims that the health service could save more than £2.7 million by investing in newer technology.
As well as this, the NHS could also save money by avoiding the need for network maintenance associated with pagers. Modern mobile device are far more cost effective, the report highlights.
That’s not all, though. Pagers are also being criticised for the fact they’re unable to support vital two-way communication between NHS professionals, and they’re still the dominant method of emergency comms.
Although 98 percent of hospitals are still relying on these devices, the report found that there are some digitally progressive trusts moving away from the technology.
Rowan Pritchard Jones, a consultant plastic reconstructive surgeon and chief clinical information officer at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, is a big critic of pagers.
“Apart from a ‘fast bleep’, doctors have no sense of the urgency or priority of a call, end up writing down messages that can be lost, and often find a telephone number engaged when they do answer it,” he said.
“There has to be a more refined, accountable, reliable way to communicate. Doubtless a task the smartphone could cope with provided we are assured of the wifi or signal coverage in modern day hospitals.”
Dr Johan Waktare, a consultant cardiologist, who serves as director and health informatics consultant at consultancy firm ITEH, also commented in the report: “Pagers are a technology that have very much stood still. There is always a strong case for having a resilient way of being able to contact people, classically for crash alerts.
But, for many of the other tasks that pager technology is used for, they’re not very efficient and clinical time is wasted. Pagers are so much part of the wallpaper in the NHS, nobody is really thinking about how we could best meet our workflow needs in 2017.”
There’s also warning that key supplier Vodafone has already left the pager market and that a reliance on limited methods of communication can be detrimental to hospitals.
Steve Carvell, head of public sector at CommonTime, added: “Ever more resilient forms of mobile technology are in demand by staff on the frontline of the NHS to allow them to quickly understand and communicate pressing needs of individual patients in their care.
“On the one hand, a lack of robust and effective communication systems is driving staff towards alternative, non-approved technologies.
“But more than this, at a time of greater pressure than ever, healthcare professionals do not have time to waste manually chasing after bleeps – they need instant detail in the palms of their hands that can help them to make informed decisions on clinical priorities.”