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No IT system to cover national flu service, says NHS England

Pharmacists must use local IT solutions or paper documentation to communicate with GPs about the service, the commissioning body has advised

Pharmacists may have to rely on paper records to update GPs about patients vaccinated in the national flu service, C+D has learned.

NHS England said it has "not been possible" to put in place a national IT system to connect pharmacies and GP surgeries in time for this winter in a letter sent to the heads of primary care and public health and seen by C+D.

NHS England urged local health leaders to find their own IT solutions where possible, but said some contractors may have to “rely on a paper-based system of communication” with GP practices when the flu service is set to roll out next month.

The commissioning body urged each region to “investigate the possibility” of reusing existing IT systems deployed for local pharmacy flu services in the letter, sent on August 12.

It asked healthcare leads to let it know by August 31 if they have an IT system in place, or whether pharmacists in their area will have to use a paper-based system.

There are "clinical reasons" why pharmacists must tell GPs which patients they have vaccinated, and it is "desirable" that this is communicated electronically, NHS England added.

PSNC "disappointed"

PSNC director of NHS services Alastair Buxton told C+D he was “disappointed” by the news, but said it was always “unlikely” that NHS England would have been able to implement a national IT system given the “short timescales” it was working to, with the service only being announced in July.

"While a paper-based records system may feel like a retrograde step, in reality it will provide a satisfactory and efficient solution for contractors," he said. Pharmacists taking part in previous local vaccination schemes had recorded the data on paper before entering it onto an online system to be shared with GPs, Mr Buxton said.

PSNC hopes NHS England will publish the documents that pharmacists need to deliver the scheme – including the service specification, the GP notification forms and details of how contractors will be paid –  "very soon", Mr Buxton added. 

Earlier this month, LPC leaders voiced concerns that the national flu service could begin a month later than planned due to unresolved “operational questions” about how pharmacists will record vaccinations and transfer information to GPs.


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