NHS Employers has told pharmacists they must specify which ‘at-risk’ group the patient falls into before administering the flu vaccination, following concerns they are being given to patients who are not entitled to free vaccinations.

As part of the shake-up for next year’s pharmacy contract, the notification form to GPs will include an amendment asking them how the patients are eligible for vaccinations, including people with diabetes, heart, kidney and liver problems, respiratory diseases, and those whose immune systems may have been suppressed due to illness or treatments.

The scheme to allow pharmacies to provide flu jabs has been beset with controversy from the outset. In May Pulse revealed that the scheme led to over half of GP practices being left with unused flu vaccine at the end of this year’s flu season. And the flu scheme left GPs with a substantial£4m loss.

The critical amendment follows rising concern from GPs that some pharmacists are claiming for vaccines that are given to people who are not entitled to them from the NHS.

Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC’s clinical and prescribing subcommittee, told Pulse: ‘It is basic common sense. Why have a scheme where patients can walk in and claim a free flu jab just saying that they are eligible where there is no evidence for it? There is scope there for misunderstandings.

’Notifying GPs is the sensible thing to do. Where there is systemic misuse of the system – I am not saying that GPs should police it – but they may be able to pick up any unusual patterns.’

Key changes to the specification for next year’s scheme, which runs from 1 September this year to 31 March 2017, also includes a new IT platform for the patient questionnaire.

Concerns have been raised about getting records accurately updated to record those patients who had or hadn’t been vaccinated.

For example, it was revealed that at least a quarter of vaccinations administered in pharmacies in 2014/15 were not recorded on ImmForm, the database for recording all vaccine doses given to GP-registered patients outside the practice.

Earlier this year Welsh GP leaders were so concerned about the issue that they debated a motion calling for the pharmacy contract for influenza to be ’subject to post-payment verification checks on the categories of patients claimed for’.