Hotel not-so-confidential

confused businessman with fax machine

Pharmacies in the UK have been faxing dispensing tokens, certificates and requests for medication to a British hotel group

The hotel group complained to NHS England’s Corporate Information Government team after it received a number of faxes sent by GP practices and pharmacies in the last few weeks.

The faxes came from practices throughout the UK.

Following the personal data breaches the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has issued a statement urging pharmacies to check the fax numbers they are contacting.

It is “likely that the fax numbers in question are very similar to a fax number being used within the healthcare system,” the PSNC says.

“Pharmacy teams should check that they are not using these numbers as they are not part of the healthcare system.”

The PSNCE says any breaches of information governance security should be reported so that incidents can be investigated, and learning shared where appropriate.

Both the PSNC and NHS England stressed that pharmacies should only use fax machines if no other method of communication is available or suitable.

It also told them to check fax numbers are correct with the intended recipient before sending the communication, and ring to confirm it has arrived afterwards.

“It is also important that any changes in a pharmacy’s contact details are shared with relevant healthcare contacts to ensure that information is not sent to out-of-date or out-of-service numbers,” says the PSNC.

In December 2018, health secretary Matt Hancock told the NHS to ban the use of fax machines by 2020, and said pharmacies and GP surgeries should also get rid of the “archaic” technology.

“We’ve got to get the basics right, like having computers that work and getting rid of the archaic fax machines still used across the NHS, when everywhere else got rid of them years ago,” Mr Hancock said at the time.

“Email is much more secure and miles more effective than fax machines.”

In June 2018, the Australian Digital Health Agency also said fax machines had to go.

It issued a statement in which it said that while other sectors discarded fax machines a decade ago, their continued use in health care is causing frustration between healthcare professionals and patient harm – up to and including death.

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