NHS England has cancelled the contract with the supplier of the current national flu and Covid-19 vaccination system in favour of an alternative as yet unproven system.
As a result, the National Immunisation Management Service that covers Coronavirus (Covid-19) and flu vaccination system was switched off at the end of August, just days before the annual flu vaccination campaign is due to begin.
Digital Health News understands that the last-minute decision, first reported by HSJ, was taken after NHS England failed to agree a contract extension for the supplier, System C/Graphnet. This despite having negotiated with the supplier to provide an extension.
According to a message sent by System C to customers NHSE informed System C it would not extend the contract just days before it was due to expire,
NIMS had been provided by System C and Graphnet in partnership with NHS South Central and West Commissioning Support Unit and has successfully been used for the last three years to manage the vaccination programme for both flu and Covid-19.
The NIMS is based on a single data store holding vaccination records for more than 60 million people, the service provides call and recall functionality for vaccine appointments, and reporting and analysis.
A contract to support a replacement COVID-19 and flu vaccination programme, thought to have been developed by the former NHS Digital agency, has been awarded to Leeds technology firm Aire Logic under the Digital Capabilities for Health Framework for an unknown sum.
Aire Logic has historically enjoyed close links to NHS Digital, the agency absorbed into NHS England in January. The company employs former NHSD staff and is based in the same Aire Street in Leeds as the former NHS Digital HQ.
Sources familiar with NIMS programme say that NHS Digital had long sought to bring the national vaccination system in-house, an ambition that survived the merger into NHS England.
On 30 August the start of the annual CovId-19 and flu vaccination campaign was brought forward to 7 September, following the identification of the new COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 in mid-August.
Asked about whether the new vaccination system was tested and ready to support the vaccination campaigns, and what the contingency plans are, NHS England didn’t provide a direct response but instead issued the following statement.
“The NHS has reviewed the systems delivering its vaccination digital services to ensure continued value for money and, accordingly, appropriate expenditure of public funds.
“The new NHS Vaccination and Immunisation Management Service will support this year’s Autumn/Winter vaccination campaign using a combination of existing technology and newly-developed products to replace NIMS.”