• NHSX launches framework to help NHS end use of pagers
  • Follows Matt Hancock pledge last year
  • Covid-19 has made need to remove pagers more urgent

NHS technology chiefs want to accelerate the broad elimination of pagers in the NHS due to the impact of covid-19, it has emerged.

NHSX, the health service’s technology arm, has told suppliers to prepare for a procurement which aims to give NHS trusts the chance to replace pagers and bleepers with “more modern communication tools”.

In February 2019 health secretary Matt Hancock set the NHS the target of removing the use of pagers for non-emergency communications between staff by the end of 2021.

At the time all hospitals were expected to have plans and “infrastructure” in place to ensure this by September 2020.

However, in a notice to suppliers, NHSX said the pressure placed on the service by the covid-19 pandemic had “accelerated the need to urgently deliver on this commitment”.

The tech unit issued guidance last month which allowed NHS staff to share clinical information about patients through apps such as Whatsapp and Telegram when there is “no practical alternative”, during the pandemic.

As of February last year, more than 130,000 pagers were estimated to be in use across the NHS – costing £6.6m annually. More than one in 10 of the world’s pagers were used by the NHS.

According to NHSX, the NHS needs “dedicated communications and task management systems to enable save staff time by reducing their need to use the historic ‘bleep’ system or by sending emails”. The systems sought must provide functions such as secure messaging, image sharing, staff directory which links in the nhs.net email address book, and calls. Suppliers must also ensure their tool has an “online presence” and can be downloaded onto mobile devices.

NHSX wants the new solutions to address “critical pain points for clinical and/or operational teams” and release more time for staff.

Later this month NHSX will launch a procurement for suppliers to get on a framework worth £3m and lasting a maximum of three years.