For Fax Sake!


This BBC News report: is both shocking and enlightening.

To be absolutely clear, this is not a criticism of the nurses and doctors, they are using the resources which they are given, and are the product of the environment in which they work. If we’re not encouraged to innovate – we won’t. If we’re not taught how to create a positive working culture – we won’t.

This is an example of an organisation wide, institutionalised failing. And it’s not exclusive to the NHS or any other public body. I’ve seen similar examples in businesses of all types and sizes; where management thinking has become completely hamstrung.

But, back to the story.

Despite all the money spent on IT projects, the NHS still has nearly 9,000 fax machines and 130,000 pagers in use!! (Just to contextualise this the fax machine was first patented in 1843, and was popular from the 1980’s to mid 2000’s, putting the NHS some 15 years out of date.) I believe these simple facts are indicators of an organisation so frightened of failure that it has lost all sense of direction; a place where staff have ideas but don’t have a voice.

The reported reliance on outdated technology has a number of likely causes, including:

  • Group think: If everyone around you has worked in the same organisation for many years even a problem as obviously risky as relying on a fax machine becomes invisible. It’s always been that way!
  • Anxiety: Managers have become, through experience, so risk averse that they no longer have the ability to modernise. Staying with the existing technology, no matter how bad it is, becomes a better option than a failed change to new technology
  • Resistance: In a world where everything has to be justified financially, common sense, logic and ‘doing the right thing’ don’t have a voice. Doing nothing becomes the default strategy.
  • Overwhelment (I think it’s a word): There are so many changes needed that replacing the outdated technology never makes it to the top of the list

You can also add to this list:

  • Making decisions at the wrong level: Senior executives aren’t affected by the problem and have bigger issues to deal with, whilst staff on the ground will see the problem but don’t get heard. As an example, in 2013 Jeremy Hunt, the then health minister, said he wanted the health service to be paperless within five years. How far removed from the reality of the situation must he have been? The classic “lack of experience on the shop floor” scenario.
  • Safety in numbers: Current procurement rules stifle innovation (the introduction of new methods, ideas, or products) and favour experience. Trot out examples where you’ve previously used a dusty old methodology, unrelated to the actual problem, and you will be seen as ‘safe’. Put forward a new idea, tailored to a specific need, and you risk being asked where you have done this before. Game over!


The NHS does a fantastic job, this is in no way a criticism of the NHS, but efficiency in all types and sizes of business is vital to ensure that they can keep on functioning in our modern day, financially driven mindset. Remember small changes add up to achieve great results (little hinges swing big doors!).

There are over 300,000 nurses in the UK. Imagine if by improving communication methods they all saved 10 minutes a day (this is a fairly small improvement). That equates to 50,000 hours per day – imagine how much care they could give with that time.

Are you struggling with change? Are you still struggling to let go of archaic methods of communication? Or have you simply become accustomed to your methods?

We understand how difficult change can be, but because of this we are ideally placed to help you implement changes in your business. Imagine what you could achieve with change, contact Efficient Thinking Solutions today to start your transformation, call us now on 01905 380008