News & views
Government grants new powers to nurses, pharmacists and physios to issue fit notesDate Posted: 5 July, 2022
The UK Government has introduced new legislation which will give a wider range of healthcare professionals the power to issue fit notes for work. Currently in England, Wales and Scotland, only doctors can certify fit notes.
The aim behind the rule change is to ease pressure on overstretched GPs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. In a recent press release, the Government said that it also hopes the move will “support and empower better conversations about work and health between employers and staff by making it easier to get this advice certified by the most relevant healthcare professional.”
Fit notes were first introduced in the UK in 2010. They are designed for workers who’ve been off with illness or injury for more than seven days. A fit note provides evidence to employers about the nature of the absence and provides helpful advice on how to support the worker’s return to work (if possible).
In April 2022, there was earlier change to the fit note system. The process of certification moved online, providing doctors and patients with a quicker, simpler way to issue and receive fit notes.
Who will be able to certify fit notes?
Once the rule change comes into effect on 1st July 2022, the following healthcare professionals will be legally permitted to issue fit notes to patients:
- Occupational therapists.
The hope is that widening certification powers to more healthcare workers will have multiple benefits, starting with freeing up GP’s time. It can also be helpful for patients who have to see different practices or team members for their condition, where it may not be appropriate for a GP to issue a fit note.
Reaction from the healthcare sector
Dr Kieran Sharrock, the BMA England GP committee deputy chair, welcomes the Government’s announcement. He said:
“At a time when the entire NHS is under pressure, reducing unnecessary administration and bureaucracy, while taking a more flexible and pragmatic approach to patient services is absolutely vital.”
Also commenting on the legislation change was Karen Middleton, Chief Executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, who said:
“We welcome this change in legislation as physiotherapists are ideally placed to have conversations about health and work with patients.
“The longer someone is off work the less likely they are to return, so physiotherapy expertise at the start of an absence can be crucial for ensuring their rehabilitation is effective and they can get back in a timely manner.
“So this announcement is good news for patients, with the added benefit being that they don’t need to make a separate appointment to get signed off by a GP.”
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