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Influenza (Flu)

Pharmacies sent 30,000 electronic flu vaccine notifications to GP surgeries in winter 2019/2020

NHS Digital has said that the electronic flu vaccine notifications between pharmacists and GPs have “saved time for GP practices and pharmacies, helped to improve data quality and reduced the possibility of errors”.

Older person flu vaccine

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Electronic notifactions sent between pharmacists and GPs have helped to improve vaccine coverage and reduce duplication of effort

Pharmacists have sent more than 30,000 digital flu vaccine notifications to GP surgeries to date during the 2019/2020 flu season, according to NHS Digital.

The notifications alert GPs when a patient has received a flu vaccine in community pharmacy, preventing duplication of effort. It also helps the surgery see whether vulnerable patients have been vaccinated.

The initiative was originally tested in Leeds in October 2019, in a two-week pilot scheme involving 113 community pharmacies and 83 GP surgeries. The scheme, which used PharmOutcomes, resulted in 2,500 flu notifications being sent electronically.

The pilot scheme was subsequently expanded across England to pharmacies and GP surgeries using PharmOutcomes and SystmOne. NHS Digital confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal that other suppliers are expected to begin offering the service later in 2020.

NHS Digital said in a statement, published on 28 February 2020, that the messages have “saved time for GP practices and pharmacies, helped to improve data quality and reduced the possibility of errors”.

Vishen Ramkisson, a GP and senior clinical lead at NHS Digital, said that the initiative is a “valuable enhancement which helps ensure the information in patients’ medical records is comprehensive and up to date”.

“Services which make it easier for health professionals to share critical information, such as about whether a vaccination has been given, enable them to provide the best care possible to patients,” he said.

Sibby Buckle, member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board and chair of the RPS-hosted Pharmacy Digital Forum, said the initiative is something that the forum, alongside NHS Digital, had been working on for several years and “is really exciting”. 

“We now have real-time transmission of data that is accurate and fast. The beauty of it is that it improves patient safety, and it does that by reducing the need for manual transcribing of data and by preventing data mismatches. It also saves time for both the pharmacy and the GP surgery,” she told The Pharmaceutical Journal.

“Now that we’ve proved the system works, it will be used as protocol for data transmission in other services. We are already starting to see electronic transmission of data in the ‘Community pharmacy consultation service’ (CPCS)”.

As part of the CPCS, pharmacists receive alerts from NHS 111 through an NHS England-supported ‘interoperability toolkit’, which is expected to be phased out after April 2021 in favour of IT systems sourced by individual pharmacies.

The flu vaccine notification system was developed using the Professional Record Standards Body’s (PRSB’s) pharmacy information flows data standard, which was published in November 2018 and endorsed by the RPS and other professional bodies.

Maureen Baker, chair of the PRSB, said that the Leeds pilot was “an early example of the benefits of digital information sharing between GPs and pharmacies that our standards help to deliver”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20207762

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