The response to the pandemic has highlighted the pressures on GPs in managing their patient loads. In order to ease the burden on them, the Government has changed the way fit notes are issued. The changes also means that patients will be able to see the most relevant healthcare professional for their needs. It is hoped that this will facilitate better conversations about health and work between employers and staff.
From 1 July 2022 nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and physiotherapists will all be able to legally certify fit notes – something that only doctors could do. If you’ve been off work with illness for more than seven days, a fit note provides evidence to your employer about your absence and any relevant advice on how to support you to remain in or return to work.
Minister for Patient Safety and Primary Care Maria Caulfield MP said:
“Improving access to GP services and reducing unnecessary bureaucracy is vitally important as we tackle the Covid backlog. Extending powers to provide fit notes to other healthcare professions will relieve further pressures on GPs, and is another step towards helping to deliver an extra 50 million appointments in general practice a year by 2024.
This is just another way in which we’re supporting GPs in primary care, and we remain on track to deliver 26,000 more primary care staff by 2024 to help improve patient access to appointments.”
BMA 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.
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.”
Chief Executive of The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Karen Middleton 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.
Director of Practice and Innovation, at The Royal College of Occupational Therapists, Karin Orman, said:
This change follows legislation changes in April 2022, which removed the need for fit notes to be signed in ink. This change makes it possible for eligible healthcare professionals to certify fit notes digitally, and also for patients to receive their fit note via digital channels (where GP IT systems support this).
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