The Optical Confederation (OC) and Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) have highlighted that progress is being made towards easing referral challenges in the optical sector after the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced a ban on the purchase of fax machines.
Mr Hancock stated that NHS trusts would no longer be allowed to purchase new fax machines from January 2019, and the devices would be completely phased out by 31 March 2020.
More than 8000 fax machines are currently in use within the NHS.
An update from the OC and LOCSU highlighted that NHS England understands the need to put in place a secure and effective referral route for the optical sector, rather than relying on fax machines.
“NHS England has been working on options for a potential solution with the OC and LOCSU being involved in these discussions. We have been advised that an announcement on NHS England’s plans to achieve this is expected by January 2019 at the latest,” the update highlighted.
The statement confirmed that fax switch offs have already caused problems for some contractors and local optical committees.
These issues were being resolved on a case by case basis with NHS England.
LOCSU and the OC advised those experiencing problems with fax-based referrals to contact their OC membership body or LOCSU so that the appropriate support can be offered.
“We are also seeking to clarify liability in the event that something goes wrong when contactors are following local arrangements where fax machines have been switched off, both now and into the future as part of a more general solution,” the statement concluded.