More health professionals have been given the power to certify and issue fit notes to employees who are absent because of sickness.
From 1 July 2022, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists will be able to legally certify fit notes, reducing pressure on doctors, including GPs, who are struggling with capacity amid a backlog of treatment requests owing to the pandemic.
Employees who are off sick for more than seven days are required to give their employer a fit note, issued by a health professional, which provides evidence about their absence and any advice on how to support them to remain or return to work.
The Department for Work and Pensions, which announced the change today after an amendment to the regulations was made, said it would empower employees to have conversations about work and health because it would become easier to get hold of this advice.
Further changes were made in April to allow for fit notes to be certified and issued digitally, in a bid to make the process more efficient.
Minister for disabled people, work and health Chloe Smith said: “The extension of fit note certification is fantastic news for patients, making it easier for them to get the support and advice they need from the right place, ensuring where possible that they are able to remain in work.
“These latest fit note changes recognise the valuable role other professions play in helping manage people’s health, and I hope this will also help reduce unnecessary bureaucracy for doctors and general practice more widely.”
British Medical Association England GP committee deputy chair, Dr Kieran Sharrock, said: “This announcement is a positive step and we hope that it will go some way to both improving the process for people who need confirmation that they are too unwell to work, and free-up GPs time to care for patients who need their expertise.
“The BMA has been clear for many years that it may not always be necessary or appropriate for a GP to issue a fit note, especially when a patient has seen a different member of the practice team for their condition, such as a nurse or physiotherapist.”
Last month a GPs’ conference heard that an independent occupational health service should be set up to manage the issuing of fit notes.