• Vaccination IT system crashed for several hours yesterday
  • More staff to be recruited to help record vaccinations accurately
  • IT system problems are “major issue” says regional vaccine lead

Ongoing problems with a major IT system which tracks covid-19 vaccinations have forced NHS chiefs to fund more staff to ensure inoculations are accurately recorded, HSJ has learned.

GP practices and community vaccination sites have been told they can apply for money to help them deal with extra work caused by problems with the Pinnacle IT system. 

Pinnacle, which is used by primary care and community vaccination sites to record details of vaccine recipients, crashed for several hours yesterday after “exceptional demand”, according to a document seen by HSJ.

The crash left staff having to use pen and paper to record the details of vaccinations. It happened as the NHS announced it had delivered five million vaccinations.   

NHS England/Improvement told HSJ a “minority” of sites were affected by the crash, but stressed vaccinations were still being recorded and that there was no impact to people receiving their vaccines.

NHS trusts were not affected by the outage as they do not use Pinnacle to record vaccinations.

In a message to vaccination sites yesterday, the Primary Care Covid-19 National Vaccination Programme said: “Some users…have experienced system issues today, owing to exceptional demand on the system. We are extremely sorry if this has affected your site.

“Pinnacle has been working around the clock with ourselves and NHS Digital colleagues to scale up. They have increased system capacity significantly over the last two weeks, and will be expanding it further over the coming weeks as the vaccination programme continues to grow.”

The message revealed that primary care network groupings would be eligible to apply for up to £2,500 to recruit staff to “ensure that all records for vaccination of priority cohorts are up to date and recorded properly in Pinnacle”.

The funding can be used to “add any paper-based records to the Pinnacle system”.

Pinnacle, which is run by Emis and was primarily used by pharmacies prior to the pandemic, has crashed several times since the NHS began covid-19 vaccinations.

One NHS IT chief, who asked not to be named, described the impact of yesterday’s outage as “chaotic”, while a senior figure involved in one region’s vaccine delivery programme said the crash had caused a “major issue” for staff across the area.

Another NHS source told HSJ the problems had left vaccination staff with no option but to use pen and paper to record the details of people getting the jab.

“We finished up on paper and will return to it tomorrow morning to see what’s what”, they said. “Fortunately our contingency plans mean we are ready to quickly upload the paper records.”

Pinnacle was originally planned to be used across England apart from in London – where pharmacy IT solution Sonar was selected to record vaccinations.

However, after the Sonar deal fell through in late November – thought to be over its cost – it was decided that Pinnacle would be used in London as well.

In December Pulse reported that NHSE/I had told GPs they would eventually be allowed to use their own IT systems to record vaccination details when this functionality was deployed to their software.