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NHS England apologises for flu service IT faults

Half of C+D readers said in-store are the best way to maximise vaccination update

NHS England has apologised for IT problems contractors experienced in the run-up to the national flu service's launch tomorrow (September 1).

The commissioner told C+D that it was made aware of an issue with its IT platform – designed to allow pharmacies to electronically collect patient surveys for the first time – experienced by a “small number” of contractors last week.

NHS England stressed the problem was “immediately” worked on by its commissioning support units (CSU). 

Kent contractor Amish Patel and Michael Ball, manager at Broadway Pharmacy in Preston, both complained of registration problems with the IT platform, which resulted in the system wrongly identifying their pharmacies' codes.

“The online collection of [patient] questionnaires takes me to another pharmacy’s page. Had I not noticed, I would be collecting data for another contractor," Mr Patel tweeted on August 24.

The issues were fixed by the end of the following day, NHS England told C+D. 

“We apologise to those contractors who experienced the problem and thank them for alerting us to the issue,” it added.

Contractors braced for launch

Despite these teething problems, most contractors have told C+D that they are on-track to start the flu service tomorrow.

Chris Bonsell, a locum manager at Rowlands pharmacies in West Yorkshire, told C+D that “all staff were engaged and briefed” in the weeks ahead of the launch. He has also started using a diary to book in patients in advance, for when the stock arrives.

Mr Bonsell said he has put up advertising in the pharmacy to help spread the word for this year's service, he added.

In-store advertising was voted the best way to maximise flu vaccination uptake by 50% of 123 readers who took part in a poll that ran online from August 15-31. 

Contacting patients who had the flu jab last year and approaching local businesses both gained around a quarter of the votes. But just nine respondents said offering patient discounts on their flu jab was the best method for encouraging uptake.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) released the legal directives for the flu service yesterday (August 30), enabling contractors that meet the requirements to start vaccinating from September 1. 

For more tips on how to achieve flu jab success this winter, watch here

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