The National Health Service (NHS) uses as much as one-tenth of the world's pagers, according to a new report that, perhaps, highlights how backward the NHS has become in terms of technology adoption and usage.
Pagers, which were introduced in the 1980s - initially to send alerts, but later adapted to convey brief messages over telecoms networks. They were widely used in the medical sector before ubiquitous mobile phone coverage and usage effectively rendered them redundant. Indeed, mobile phone maker BlackBerry was originally a major maker of pagers.
The report, published in The Guardian and released by ‘digital solutions' firm CommonTime, estimates that the pagers are costing £6.6m per year for 130,000 units, a price which, were they replaced with mobile handsets, could save the NHS £2.7m annually.
Outside of the NHS, pagers are no longer widely used.
Vodafone recently announced its pager business was to close at the end of November affecting not just doctors, but also field operatives from energy companies, such as EDF, who use the system because of its reliability.
PageOne, which will be the last major pager company left in the UK by the end of the year, says on its website: "Paging remains one of the fastest, simplest, most reliable and most cost-effective networks to send critical alerts and notifications to multiple users at the same time."
Meanwhile, the report attempts to raise alarm on the costs and inflexibility of the system, claiming they "cannot continue to exist in the NHS anymore" and adding that it was surprised that "legacy equipment that is relied upon in emergency situations so heavily".
Many doctors disagree, however, believing that the level of reliability and indoor coverage afforded by pagers could not be matched by mobile networks.
The news comes as mobile operator EE begins the process of retrenching its GSM network for use over 4G. These lower frequencies have a better transmission rate through asbestos lined walls, which means that there's more chance of them helping out in a hospital with its lead-lined x-ray rooms and lower-ground clinics.
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