Only four in 10 GP practices will be able to receive flu vaccination data electronically from pharmacies this autumn, according to NHS Digital.
Pulse reported in January that NHS Digital was working with pharmacy and GP IT suppliers so that, from this summer, practices and pharmacies could share data on which patients have been vaccinated during this year’s flu season.
The plans were prompted by the publication of new NHS data standards in which NHS Digital said healthcare IT systems ‘must talk to each other’.
However, NHS Digital revealed last week that it expects only 40% of GPs will have the right IT systems in place by the autumn to receive digital messages from community pharmacies.
NHS England announced in 2015 that community pharmacists would be allowed to administer the NHS flu vaccines, a move that was met with wariness by GP leaders who believed 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.
The BMA previously warned that pharmacists are likely to be paid more than GPs for the service – 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 whether they have already been vaccinated at a pharmacy, and this figure does not cover the extra cost of that work.
NHS Digital told Pulse that ‘around 10,500 pharmacies will be able to send digital messages on vaccination activity for this winter’s flu season’, depending on ‘the GP system suppliers [as] to whether GP practices will be able to receive the message’.
It said it expects ‘40% of the GP estate to be able to receive digital message transfer by the autumn’.
Richard Ashcroft, programme director for digital medicines at NHS Digital, recently told the Pharmaceutical Journal that the capability to share data is a ‘starter for getting rid of the paper, fax and phone dependency’, adding that pharmacists will not directly write on patient records.
He said: ‘Pharmacists will be digitally transferring it into the GP workflow, with an ambition of transferring it into the GP record at a point in time in the future.’
At the moment, two pharmacy systems are able to transfer data compared to one GP IT system. The GP system is ‘well on track’ to start digitally transferring the flu vaccine service data before the winter flu season this year, according to Mr Ashcroft.
Mr Ashcroft said NHS Digital is likely to obtain ‘real clarity’ about when the other GP IT systems will be in place by September 2019.