This site is intended for health professionals only

GPs and pharmacists to share flu vaccination data from next season

GP practices and pharmacies will be able to share flu vaccination data, allowing them to see which patients have been vaccinated, by the next flu season, according to NHS Digital.

NHS Digital told Pulse it is currently working with pharmacy and GP system suppliers to implement the IT system updates, which should go live in summer 2019, in time for the 2019/20 season.

The change comes after the new NHS data standards, published in November, said NHS IT systems ‘must talk to each other’.

Pharmacists have been allowed to administer the NHS flu vaccines since 2015, a move which was met with wariness by GP leaders, who thought it would destabilise the programme delivered by practices.

Issues with pharmacists and GPs delivering the flu programme have persisted, due to competition over the same patient populations.

During the 2018/19 flu season, ongoing stock and delivery issues caused NHS England to ask practices and pharmacies to ‘swap stocks’ to ensure all at–risk patients are vaccinated.

GPs said this was unlikely to happen, as pharmacies and practices get paid to administer the vaccines, so there would be ‘very little advantage’ to either side in sharing stock.

The BMA also previously warned pharmacists are realistically paid more than GPs for the service, as although GPs get 50p more per patient, they have to carry-out more administrative work – including calling and recalling patients, and chasing at-risk patients to see if they have already been vaccinated at a pharmacy.

But from the 2019/20 flu season, GP practices and pharmacies should be able to share patient information and see who has been vaccinated, through updated IT systems.

An NHS Digital spokesperson said: ‘We are working to digitise the transfer of activities, such as flu vaccinations from community pharmacies to GP practices. We are currently engaged with pharmacy and GP system suppliers to implement standards, delivered in conjunction with the Professional Record Standards Body.

‘These will enable the digital transfer of important information regarding patient care between a community pharmacy and GP practice. We are on track to move from technical development to proving the transfer of information in a live setting in the summer of 2019, and look forward to making further announcements as our delivery plans progress.’

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Currently, when someone is vaccinated anywhere but their GP surgery, be that at a pharmacist, at work or, in the case of some children, at school, this information does not always flow back into GP systems and into the patient’s health record.

‘Therefore this proposal is a positive step that will not only ensure a patient’s record is comprehensive and up-to-date, but also paint a clearer picture of uptake rates and crucially, identify those who are not getting their vaccinations.’

Last week, NHS England updated its flu vaccination advice to allow GPs to order a new vaccine (QIVc) covering all adult populations for the 2019/20 season.

This came after GPs were already told practices to start ordering the same two vaccines for over (aTIV) and under 65s (QIVe) as the previous season.