The 2011/12 season was characterised by unusually late influenza A (H3N2) activity in the United Kingdom (UK). We measured vaccine effectiveness (VE) of the 2011/12 trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine (TIV) in a test-negative case–control study in primary care. Overall VE against confirmed influenza A (H3N2) infection, adjusted for age, surveillance scheme and month, was 23% (95% confidence interval (CI): -10 to 47). Stratified analysis by time period gave an adjusted VE of 43% (95% CI: -34 to 75) for October 2011 to January 2012 and 17% (95% CI: -24 to 45) for February 2012 to April 2012. Stratified analysis by time since vaccination gave an adjusted VE of 53% (95% CI: 0 to 78) for those vaccinated less than three months, and 12% (95% CI: -31 to 41) for those vaccinated three months or more before onset of symptoms (test for trend: p=0.02). For confirmed influenza B infection, adjusted VE was 92% (95% CI: 38 to 99). A proportion (20.6%) of UK influenza A(H3N2) viruses circulating in 2011/12 showed reduced reactivity (fourfold difference in haemagglutination inhibition assays) to the A/Perth/16/2009 2011/12 vaccine component, with no significant change in proportion over the season. Overall TIV protection against influenza A(H3N2) infection was low, with significant intraseasonal waning.