Report into NHS communications says it uses 130,000 pagers and it is surprising ‘legacy equipment is relied upon in emergency situations

More than one in 10 of the world’s pagers is being used in the NHS, according to estimates.

A report looking at communications within the National Health Service said around 130,000 of the devices were employed at an annual cost of £6.6m.

Compiled by digital solutions company CommonTime, the report said pagers were not only limited – they do not support two-way communication – but also costly.

Replacing the nearly 130,000 pagers with use of mobile software could save the NHS £2.7m a year, the report found.

Rowan Pritchard Jones, chief clinical information officer at the St Helens and Knowsley teaching hospitals NHS trust, said: “Pagers represent 20th-century technology and are a blunt instrument for communication.

“Apart from a ‘fast bleep’, doctors have no sense of the urgency or priority of a call, end up writing down messages that can be lost, and often find a telephone number engaged when they do answer it.”

Vodafone announced it was going to close its pager business in May this year, leaving only one supplier covering the UK.

The report concludes that pagers “cannot continue to exist in the NHS any more”, saying it was surprising “legacy equipment that is relied upon in emergency situations so heavily”.

But Geoff Hall, of the Informatics Leeds Cancer Centre, said: “Pagers seem like old technology, but they still exist purely for their inherent high levels of resilience. They are simple to use, i.e. calls can be pushed out by ringing one number, there is an audit trail, the device is easy to carry, and the battery lasts months, not hours.

“They do only one task, but they do it well. They provide a last line of defence”.