The Ministry of Health has given pharmacies around the country until the end of the year to get rid of their fax machines, and to replace them with a secure digital alternative.

The ministry said faxes were becoming increasingly incompatible with modern technology, but at least one Kaitaia pharmacist does not agree.

Eric Shackleton, who sold his pharmacy to Atif Malkonyan in 2017, and is due to embark upon fulltime retirement in March, said faxes were in fact more secure, and less problematic, than the encrypted email alternative.

"A fax is much more difficult to interfere with than an email, because the message goes directly from one phone number to another number," he said.


The pharmacy's machine was still used multiple times daily, and he saw no reason why it should be dispensed with.

Wellington pharmacist Angelia Liu told the NZ Herald that she too used a fax machine daily to send prescriptions and patient information to other health professionals across the country. Occasionally Wellingtonians would pop in to take advantage of the rare artefact too.

"People come in all the time and say, 'Oh, have you got a fax machine?' Sometimes people come in and say, 'I need to fax something, can I use your fax machine because we know no one else with (one)'," she said.

Kaikōura Pharmacy owner David McGhee said he used his fax machine up to 20 times a day, and more over the summer tourist season.

"A lot of people are on holiday in Kaikōura, they've run out of their medicines and they need them, so they need to get a prescription," he said.

"They don't go and see the local GP, they phone up their doctor and get them to send a prescription to us to tell us what the patient needs, and of course, that's all being done by fax."

The Pharmacy Guild, however, said all community pharmacies across the country needed to replace their fax machines with a secure digital alternative by the end of the year, and chief executive Andrew Gaudin was confident they would manage. Mr McGhee was still not convinced.

"The old way works, there's no problem with it," he said.


"I know faxes are considered archaic, and if it wasn't for medicine and law the fax machine would've died a natural death 15 years ago. We're the only ones keeping it going. But it works. I don't feel we need to chuck something away that works perfectly well."