Two system suppliers have begun electronically sending information about flu vaccines from pharmacies to GP practices, saving time and reducing errors.

PharmOutcomes and SystmOne have sent more than 30,000 electronic messages about vaccines during this flu season so far.

The programme was rolled out nationally following a successful pilot in Leeds in October, involving 113 community pharmacies using PharmOutcomes and 83 GP practices using SystmOne.

During the two-week pilot, 2,500 messages were electronically transferred.

This has saved time for GP practices and pharmacies, helped to improve data quality and reduced the possibility of error, according to NHS Digital.

Patient information is more up to date as it can be received by GP systems and added to medical records as soon as the notification is received from the pharmacy.

This prevents patients who have already had a flu vaccine from being contacted unnecessarily and could be used to identify those in at-risk groups who haven’t had their vaccine.

Vishen Ramkisson, a GP and senior clinical lead at NHS Digital, said: “This 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.”

Professor Maureen Baker, chair of the Professional Record Standards Body, which collaborated on the project, added: “The Leeds pilot is an early example of the benefits of digital information sharing between GPs and pharmacies that our standards help to deliver.

“For GPs, getting up to date information about patient’s pharmacy treatments is key to their ongoing care. And sharing the information digitally saves GPs’ precious time, while making care better and safer.”

It comes as all prescriptions in England are to become digital following the roll-out of the final stage of the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) in November 2019.

Following successful trials in 60 GP practices and thousands of pharmacies, it’s estimated the service will save the NHS £300 million a year by 2021 through reducing paper processing and prescribing errors.

The content of the electronic notification is based on the flu vaccination data standard developed in partnership with the Professional Record Standards Body.

Drew Clarke, software development lead at Pinnacle Health Partnership, which supplies PharmOutcomes, said: “This valuable message transfer project ultimately leads to increased data quality, which is a great step forward in further reducing clinical risk associated with the transfer of patient data.

“The initiative has been thoroughly planned and conscientiously executed by everyone involved – I look forward to more opportunities for integrated working.”