I hate fax machines. It's a deep-seated visceral loathing of a technology that is decades past its use-by (not best-before) date - a technology that is still considered (in departmental policies at least) an acceptable way of transmitting confidential information from one point to another. Consider this.
Today in our office (I work in a busy Genetic Medicine Department, and we get barrow-loads of correspondence relating to our patients every day) the fax machine broke. It's a venerable old thing, but it has now entered the realm of permapaperjam and refuses all my obsequies and pleas to unfeckingjam itself. This is bad enough, but we're awaiting an important test result from an external lab, and the external lab won't email us the report; their policy is that it can only be sent by post or by fax.
Why won't they email? Well, their policy is that they will only email to addresses ending in nhs.uk, so the fact that the Northern Ireland NHS email system ends in hscni.net is a Big Deal. We, apparently, are off the grid.
So the only way to get the result is via this useless obsolete chunk of dead beige plastic that can't even do its primary job. We have a problem, and the problem is that policies don't change very well.
Now, this is 2011. We have motorised vehicles and computational devices and electrical hand dryers and soap and stuff. We even have Pot Noodle. What in the name of all that is holy are we doing, relying on ancient insecure unreliable user-unfriendly hackable useless trash like fax machines? There are better ways of doing this - encrypted file attachments is one. Secure server download is another (and these are potentially properly auditable - calm your quaking desire, O box-tickers).
But the NHS, bless its socks, still seems to operate on the principle that sending a series of beeps across a phone line in the hope that you're connecting with a non-hacked (thank you, Mr Murdoch) machine on the other end, relying on no paper-jams and proper scanning of the feed sheets and the person manning the receiving machine being of near-average intelligence is the way to go.