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

NHS England recognises that electronic transmission of flu data is the most "desirable" option

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.


How would a national IT system improve the flu service?

We want to hear your views, but please express them in the spirit of a constructive, professional debate. For more information about what this means, please click here to see our community principles and information


Nat Mitchell, Community pharmacist

It's a shame that there is no IT system in place for whatever reason. But as the last couple of posters have said, we can't afford to let the disappointment become a barrier to the services success. It makes things harder, but far from impossible. We are used to working with an outdated prescription service and overcome its limitations on a daily basis. Let's focus on service delivery and doing what we are generally good at, which is satisfying customers. Then let's have a right good moan about the lack of IT when we've done this!

Karen Samuel-Smith, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

We have seen so many other potential services grind to a halt because of "the IT system" (even though incompatible IT systems never sees to be a deterrant to making hospital referrals.) We need to be making every effort to make this service work, rather than looking at what is wrong with it, there will be plenty outside of Pharmacy doing that bit for us!

A C, Locum pharmacist

as usual lots of moans from community pharmacy. The choice is paper based system this year or wait until NHS England can fully comply with European law and run an open competitive tendering process for the national it solution. A procurement cannot be done overnight. Get real and deliver or moan about how the world is against you and how GPs get everything given to them! . The choice is yours!

Patricia Ojo, Community pharmacist

Does this apply to the National and/ or London Flu programme? The London Flu programme worked well using the First PCT website. Not having it this year is unimaginable. Someone needs to deal with this very quickly. As I like to be proactive, any thoughts on how we can influence or prepare for a less paper and labour intensive screening and data capturing system. My first request is a single form be designed to screen both vaccines, data transfer consent and patient satisfaction survey be removed ( as the service quality has been proven ) or a single question about if happy with delivery today and if they will return/ recommend. Alternatively, patients can be directed to an online survey to answer the questions. If the decision makers want a sample of what I am suggesting, I'll be quite happy to supply it. We are not going to have a central system, then we need the process simplified for the sake of patient safety, satisfaction and cost effectiveness. Where was QIPP in all this years negotiations and preparations?

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

I cannot believe this important step forward in commission services from pharmacy is being undermined by poor preparation, inadequate support and ludicrous implementation. No details of the PAPERWORK!!!! to be used and GPs are already booking their flu clinics - I am reluctant to do the same until I am sure I won't be left with egg all over my professional face. Previously, the locally commissioned flu service worked fairly well and we knew what was happening. Now we are on a national scheme and I haven't got a clue as to what is required. Poor, PSNC! Very poor indeed!!!

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

What no one is asking, so called a hidden agenda question, what will happen if the GPs say they never received a notification ????? Any thoughts???

John Urwin, Community pharmacist

Happened last season in Cumbria, however we use PharmOutcomes which sends an e-mail notification to the GP and it was easy to prove the GP HAD been notified and when.

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

Why am I not surprised! Brewery and p#ss up immediately springs to mind. Shame on EVERY party concerned. Enough said.

John Alan James Robinson, Superintendent Pharmacist

We are rural. The Gp's simply record a batch number and expiry date against the patient record. this is done with mailmerge. No paperwork , no questionnaire ,simple consent. patient makes an appointment. Contrast this with what might/will be with pharmacy. patients ahave an immediate barrier to participation. Why would they utilise a service with 20 questions when they can simply walk in and out of a surgery ? Worse still, PSNC do not know whether or not the service will continue next year ? Bah , Humbug !!

John Urwin, Community pharmacist

Questions like: Are you well today? Have you ever suffered from anaphylaxis and was it due to flu vaccine or any of these ingredients? Are you allergic to eggs? Have you had flu vaccine already this year? Nasty, intrusive, irrelevent questions. "I've never been asked that before, is this something new?" they say on their first vaccination visit to a pharmacy. But they come in greater numbers each year because they CAN walk in and out of the pharmacy, unlike the clinics operated by the GP. They like our friendly convenient service.

'Disappointed'... Is that it!!! I hope that PSNC have complained to the powers that be about the shocking way in which pharmacy services always seem to be implemented at the last minute!!! Some would think that they (DH) want us to fail!! In a break of tradition, could PSNC actually reveal to us lowly pharmacists whether they have complained about this and what actions the DH have proposed to avoid this situation in the future? 'NHSCB 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' - Who were these 'heathcare leads' and what were the responses??? Also, with regard to the 'implementation of a national IT system'... I only assume that PSNC forgot about PharmOutcomes????!!! Finally, how are we going to get paid for this service???? - Do we have to send our paper forms in at the end of the month (as well as a copy to the patients' GP and a copy for the patient and a copy for ourselves...) That's it... rant over

Also some comments in relation to another related article - For the first time, we can offer a service on the same terms as other healthcare providers such as GPs - See more at: Errrmmm... same terms, really??? I think the service specification for us (when we eventually see it) will require a lot more from us than GPs are required to do “Taking flu as an example, we know from LPCs that all but two NHS England regional teams commissioned pharmacy vaccination services last year. PharmOutcomes tells us that, in the 32 of those services that were managed using the system - See more at: So if all but 2 commissioned the service and PharmOutcomes was used in 32 schemes, WHY the heck have PSNC not suggested that it should be used as the NATIONAL platform for recording????????? - See more at:

Ari Butt, Community pharmacist

It seems NHS England have not prepared properly for this service .

Well no change there then... at least their consistent in their approach to pharmacy services!!

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology


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