NHS, Faxes and Data Security
For those that aren't familiar with the issues, there are a multitude of barriers - technical, cultural and legal - that prevent the elimination of fax use in the NHS (or, for that matter, in other places).
Anyone tried buying a house or getting a loan recently without actually putting a *signature* on a piece of paper and somehow getting that back to the organisation in question (for which a fax usually works well)?
Most people won't accept a "digital stamp" kind of signature on an electronic file because there are question marks about the legality of doing so. A scanned/faxed document is pretty much incontrovertible; even if the original paper is destroyed as long as the scanning process was BS10008 compliant or you have a fax machine log or receipt then the digital image is generally considered adequate proof of the existence of the original paper.
Otherwise you start getting into the minutiae of contract law - which doesn't cover medical records anyway!
Even if this wasn't the case, medical records are highly signature orientated (face it, you *would* want to know who ordered your antibiotics to be stopped early) and there are practicality and infection control issues (not to mention cost!) that prevent giving every doctor and nurse some kind of digital tablet to eliminate paper.
The other issue that many non-NHS people don't realise (and I have immense fun trying to explain to them) is that you have a very high user-to-PC ratio in the wards and clinical areas - in the order of 20 to 1 or worse. This isn't a bank or office environment where everyone walks in in the morning and "their" PC is sitting on "their" desk ready for "them" to use.
You can't just buy more PCs - in many cases there isn't even the space, let alone the budget.
Finally, email is an insecure transmission medium unless everyone uses digital signatures and site-to-site link encryption. However neither infrastructure is in place in the NHS because there were far sexier projects for the previous Government to piss all our tax money away on. NHS Mail is the closest there is and for Acute sites it is far from an optimal solution.
AC for obvious reasons. Despite all the heartache I *like* my IT job in the NHS!!!