PCN service requirements are being phased in gradually over the next 18 months, with just two beginning from October this year.
One of these is the 'tackling neighbourhood health inequalities' specification, which requires PCNs to have recorded the ethnicity of all registered patients, or to note where patients have chosen not to state their ethnicity. PCNs can also earn a share of £10.1m funding for recording this data through a target set out in the Investment and Impact Fund (IIF) if practices record ethnicity data for between 81% and 95% of patients by the end of March 2022.
General practice staff have recorded data on the ethnicity of millions of patients as part of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, but GPonline understands that this data has not been entered into practice patient records - meaning GPs could be asked to collect the data twice.
Patient ethnicity data
Senior clinical advisor to the NHS Confederation Dr Graham Jackson has called for the data collected over the past year to be uploaded to GP IT systems - allowing practices to avoid duplicating work.
It comes as the Buckinghamshire GP warned last week that PCNs should be paid for IIF work each month - like the QOF - to allow them to recruit the staff they need to begin work on indicators.
Dr Jackson said: ‘It's a huge ask for PCNs to achieve, and pretty much impossible. Practices would have to text patients [to ask for their ethnicity data]. I work in a practice with 14,500 patients, just imagine that number of text replies coming in, which would all need to be coded.
‘Ethnicity data was collected as part of the vaccine programme, so it's been collected for the millions of people who have had their vaccine over the last nine months, and the NHS has got all that data. It's critical because ethnicity is important to understanding demographic changes to health inequalities, but it's actually an unrealistic piece of work for practices to do alone and it needs a central solution.’
COVID-19 vaccine campaign
GPs were asked by NHS England in January to collect ethnicity data as part of the vaccine campaign, with GP-led vaccination sites responsible for delivering just shy of 75% of all COVID vaccines in England.
A spokesperson for NHS Digital told GPonline that there were 'currently no plans' to add ethnicity data collected during the COVID-19 vaccine campaign to GP records. The spokesperson said: 'We are working with NHS England to improve how ethnicity data is recorded on patients’ personal medical records.
'Some ethnicity data has been collected during the COVID-19 vaccination programme to monitor the overall uptake of vaccines by different minority ethnic groups. This data is being used for analysis at a national level and has not been applied to individual patients’ health records.’
GPonline reported last week that deliveries of flu vaccine will be delayed for up to two weeks after the UK's largest supplier told GP practices jabs would be disrupted due to 'unforeseen road freight challenges'.