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Exclusive: National database giving trusts false picture of unvaccinated staff

Published on: 19 Jan 2022

The national database responsible for recording whether NHS staff have been vaccinated against coronavirus is ‘inaccurate’ and forcing trusts to resort to ‘labour intensive methods’ to work out which employees have not been vaccinated, trusts have warned.

The problem comes just over two weeks before the 3 February deadline for all NHS staff to have been vaccinated or face redeployment or dismissal.

HSJ has been in contact with several trust chief executives and directors who all expressed concerns about the National Immunisation Management Service (NIMS) and the National Immunisation and Vaccination System (NIVS). 

NIMS – which is run by the South Central and West Commissioning Support Unit – and NIVS are similar pieces of software that support the management of the flu and covid vaccination programmes across England. Their functionality includes helping identifying priority patients and recording vaccinations given.

In the phase two guidance  for mandatory covid staff vaccination published last week, NHS England said that a small number of designated members of staff would be given access to data stored on the NIMS database. It said: “By getting this information from NHS England’s immunisation database individuals will not need to provide evidence of their vaccination status, making it easier for both them and their managers.” Some trusts also use NIVS to find the same information.

However, one NHS chief executive in the North described how almost a third of staff members identified by NIMS as unvaccinated have since come back to them with proof of vaccination, and described how “some are outraged, [though] most [are] happy to correct the information”.

Another trust leader also in the North described how they had “resorted to really labour-intensive methods of validating and checking info” to get reliable information on their staff’s vaccine status. They said this included cross-checking information and ring-arounds.

Another in the Midlands described the database they use as “inaccurate” or “out of date”. 

A chief executive in the South said the system was “confusing” as there were “different systems operating”. Their organisation had written to all staff who do not appear on the data as vaccinated.

“It’s a big logistical piece of work but necessary to get an accurate picture,” they stressed. “We’ve had a significant amount of returns already who indeed can demonstrate that they have been vaccinated.”

A system leader in the North added: “Locally we are using employers’ own data to address vaccination as a condition of employment within individual conversations”.

“So far numbers look problematic but improving. There will be a difference in data in organisations who are not vaccination hubs, as staff are more likely to be vaccinated by [a] GP, pharmacy etc and we rely on being told,” they said.

This was echoed by a Midlands leader who said: “There have been major issues with the various IT systems, especially if people have been vaccinated off site. We’ve had to ring each individual who appears not to have had it and manually check their status and passport. It’s also complex if people are joining but not yet here, or off sick, or on maternity leave.”

A trust director in London commented: “Some staff are quite p*ssed off, as are their team leaders, when being approached with ‘you haven’t been vaxed’ when they have. This includes staff that have been vaccinated by the trust! Equally, some staff who haven’t been vaccinated haven’t received letters and therefore, haven’t been picked up… but have proactively come forward.”