• Concerns over failure to record ethnicity of vaccine recipients
  • Recording this data would help identify groups with poor vaccine uptake
  • Calls for data to be accessed from other records

NHS England has been urged to introduce routine recording of race and ethnicity data when people are given their covid vaccination.

Documents seen by HSJ show Pinnacle, the IT system being used by GPs and mass vaccination centres to record jabs, does not directly require ethnicity to be recorded.

Jabeer Butt, chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, which promotes race equality in public services, told HSJ that making it a requirement would help establish the facts on uptake among different groups, more quickly.

It is understood the NHS is able to ascertain data on vaccine uptake by ethnicity by connecting it with GP records, through the national immunisation management service, and potentially with other healthcare data. However, Mr Butt said this would provide only limited insight and take more time.

He believes the abscence of data may allow ”misconceptions” to take hold about lower uptake among some minorities, which can lead to stigma, when in fact, he said, the trend may so far simply be due to there being fewer black and Asian people in the oldest age groups, who are the first eligible for vaccination. 

Analysis suggests ethnicity is only recorded in around 60-70 per cent of GP records, and it is also possible that some who are vaccinated will not be registered with a GP.

Seven weeks after the first doses were given in England, NHSE has published some data on how many have been given by region and age, but nothing on ethnicity/race or gender.

Partha Kar, a national specialty advisor for diabetes with NHS England and a doctor in Portsmouth, has also said ethnicity data should have been collected and reported from the outset, and that collecting it at any point of vaccination could have improved existing primary care records of ethnicity.

He tweeted: “Over four million people have had their vaccinations. We know [poorer] outcomes with covid is [sic] associated with age, ethnicity and deprivation.

“Do we have any data around the points two and three with regards [to] uptake? No mention in [the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s] priorities. What about data?”

Dr Kar’s comments came after the first weekly publication of data on covid-19 vaccinations and before the informatoion was updated to include details of age, type of dose and NHS region.

Roger Kline, a research fellow at Middlesex University who designed the Workforce Race Equality Standard for the NHS, told HSJ: “I am surprised if there is not in place a robust recording of ethnicity, since one lesson from the first covid-19 wave was its disproportionate impact on certain groups - notably BAME staff and patients.

“There is no reason to think this may still not be happening so it is hard to understand why recording ethnicity when vaccinating would not be mandated, especially given the evidence of lower acceptance levels for vaccination amongst BAME population groups.

“I cannot imagine that if this is happening it is driven by a public health imperative.”

The new NHS Race and Health Observatory, which was established last May to investigate the impact of race and health on people’s lives, has said data recording is “essential” for both ascertaining take-up levels and improving ethnicity recording across primary care.

The observatory added it is “working to endorse this”.

NHSE confirmed to HSJ that ethnicity data is held on GP patient records, which are connected to NIMS, but did not respond when approached for further comment.

NHSE primary care director Nikki Kanani has suggested on Twitter that a solution is close to being put forward, but not said what this is.