Pagers are the latest piece of iconic 90s tech set for the chop as part of health secretary Matt Hancock’s fervent campaign to modernise the NHS, it has emerged.
The unabashed tech enthusiast – who launched his own app while digital secretary – announced on Saturday that pagers would be banned in the NHS, calling for the “outdated and expensive” technology to be eradicated by the end of 2021.
While bleepers may have fallen out of fashion at the time of the millennium amid the rise of the mobile phone, the NHS has remained a staunch supporter of the vintage tech. Today, more than one in 10 of the world’s pagers are used by the health service.
According to government figures, the 130,000 bleepers still operating within the NHS cost £6.6m a year, with only one UK mobile phone company still providing the service.
“We want to build a health and care service which is fully able to harness the huge potential of technology,” said Hancock, adding that NHS staff deserve “the very best equipment”.
“We have to get the basics right, like having computers that work and getting rid of archaic technology like pagers and fax machines.”
NHS pagers are set to be replaced with mobile phones and apps, with a pilot project testing the scheme, saving junior doctors an average of 48 minutes per shift.
“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to communicate which allow doctors and nurses to spend more time caring for patients rather than having to work round outdated kit,” the health secretary added.
However, trusts will be asked to keep some bleepers available for emergency situations – including when the WiFi goes down.
Hancock’s crusade on pagers comes just two months after he banned fax machines, calling on NHS trusts in England to rid themselves of more than 8,000.
“Because I love the NHS, I want to bring it into the 21st century and use the very best technology available,” the cabinet minister said at the time.