Influenza Virology Scheme

Influenza Virology Scheme 2019/2020 (Flu Swabbing)


The RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre (RSC) provides clinical surveillance data and collects virological specimens from a representative national sample of 100 general practices. It has carried out this role in collaboration with Public Health England, (PHE) and its predecessor organisations since the early 1990’s. Its role is primarily to confirm cases of influenza, but also to look at the impact of other diseases, and to characterise more vulnerable populations.  The RSC also support the evaluation of vaccine effectiveness.

Aims and Objectives:

The influenza swabbing scheme is managed by the RCGP RSC. The main aim of the scheme is to measure the effectiveness of the influenza vaccination. The scheme is also used for surveillance of respiratory viruses throughout the winter season.

Study design:
Participating practices from the RCGP RSC network included in the pilot will provide nasopharyngeal swab from consenting patients suspected to be suffering or have recently suffered from flu or a similar respiratory illness. The swabs will be stored and tested by PHE in order to set in context other measures of influenza surveillance in the population and assess population exposure and vaccine effectiveness.

Setting and Participants:

Every year between October and May, 100 RCGP RSC general practices are involved in the scheme with each practice taking up to 20 swabs per week. Nasopharyngeal samples are collected from consenting patients, clinically suspected of having influenza. These samples are lab-tested for influenza and RSV and the results are sent back to practices and coded back into patient record.