Problems with a system used to track NHS vaccinations could be putting children at risk, according to the Health Protection Agency.
In the independent agency’s Communicable Disease Report it says that national trends on vaccination were not available for the third consecutive quarter because of problems implementing the Child Health Interim Application system in London. The vaccination system had no information on 51,500 children in the city.
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“These children are not necessarily unvaccinated, but the fact that no information has been collected on their vaccination status means that those who have missed out vaccines for whatever reason are unlikely to have been identified and followed-up,” the report says.
According to the HPA, the old vaccination system had been successful in reducing childhood disease by sending invitations for vaccination, identifying unvaccinated children, sending reminders and tracking their status for catch-up campaigns.
“If new child systems fail to deliver these functionalities then children risk missing out on vaccinations. Thus they remain unprotected and eventually will catch measles, mumps, and rubella infections,” the report warns.
NHS Connecting for Health and its London supplier BT had intended CHIA as a stop-gap replacement for its ageing vaccination system, until the functionality could be built into BT’s integrated Care Records Service system from IDX, which is now owned by GE Healthcare.
The supplier and Connecting for Health, which runs the £6.2bn National Programme for IT, originally believed this system would be available from June this year, but it is now at least two years behind schedule.
In February, Dr Martin Baggaley, clinical director for NHS Connecting for Health, London, said, “We acknowledge that there were issues with the new computer system, known as the CHIA, and supporting processes. I would like to offer reassurance that the new computer system will not have put individual children at any increased risk of missing their vaccinations.”
Conservative MP Richard Bacon pointed out that this was contradicted by the report from the HPA. “These wildly contradictory statements will cause great confusion and concern for many parents of young children in the London area. I have asked the health secretary for an urgent explanation of how she plans to solve these problems, which have been created as a direct result of the new NHS IT programme,” he said.
Connecting for Health said in a statement, “It is not right to say that the NHS National Programme for IT is causing rates to reduce [and] we do not believe that the introduction of the new computer system has put individual children at risk.
“We acknowledge there have been issues with the new computer system [the CHIA] which we regret. The alternative of no computer system would have been far worse.”
Connecting for Health said the CHIA’s problems would not put children at risk because the Primary Care Trusts had “put in place manual systems to manage vaccinations and to ensure that routine immunisation and vaccinations programmes have continued to run.”