NHS England has agreed to introduce the routine collection of ethnicity when people receive the covid-19 vaccine, seven weeks after vaccinations began and following growing concern.

At present, Pinnacle, the system being used by GPs and mass vaccination sites to record jabs, does not include reporting of race and ethnicity information, as HSJ reported on Sunday.

HSJ understands this will now be added in the coming days. 

The lack of robust data, based on collection at the point of vaccination, had prompted concerns it would hamper efforts to ensure good uptake in different ethnic groups, and that the absence of the information would allow misconceptions about poor uptake. 

Although the NHS can ascertain ethnicity for some people by linking vaccine data to GP and other healthcare records, this is likely to exclude a substantial number of recipients, and may take longer. Ethnicity is thought to be recorded in around 60-70 per cent of GP records.

A senior NHS source pointed out that NHSE had last year, separately, set in train a “a new regulatory requirement [from] January 2021 for [GP] practices to record ethnicity data where this is provided”, and to review existing ethnicity data, as part of other work to combat health inequalities.

On covid vaccination, NHSE has so far published data on how many people have been vaccinated, with details such as age range, region and type of dose, but it does not include ethnicity, race or gender.

The change revealed today has been welcomed by Healthwatch England, the Labour party, and by several of those who had called for it. One of those, Race Equality Foundation chief executive Jabeer Butt, said on Twitter that it “will be welcome when we actually see the data”.

When HSJ first put to NHSE, two weeks ago, that it did not have sufficient data on ethnicity for those receiving the vaccine, it said in a statement: “This is wrong as ethnicity information is already held on the patient record which is linked to from the NIMS, so it is disappointing that the HSJ is running a story which may unnecessarily worry people.

In a follow-up statement today, NHSE said: “As has been the case from the start of the vaccination programme, when someone is vaccinated this fact links to their NHS records enabling population uptake to be monitored by ethnicity, and with aggregate data shared with local authority directors of public health as they lead work to ensure equitable community uptake.

“In addition, as a ‘belt and braces’ supplementary measure, ethnicity data it is also being recorded as part of the vaccination collection through Pinnacle.”

UPDATED: This article has been updated to include a follow-up statement from NHS England post-publication.