Nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists and physios will be able to sign off fit notes from next month under new legislation that will be laid before Parliament on 12 June.
From 1 July, these healthcare professionals in England, Scotland and Wales will be able to legally certify fit notes, in a move designed to ease pressure on GPs with doctors currently the only professionals able to do this, the Department for Work and Pensions has said.
Nursing in Practice has asked the Department for Work and Pensions whether these changes will impact all nures or just those in GP practices.
This is the biggest change to the rules around fit notes since they were introduced in 2010, and part of a planned overhaul of reforms that has included scrapping ink only signatures and providing more ‘interactive’ advice on workplace adaptations and support.
Outlining its plans at the time, the Government said it would also move to embed electronic fit notes in hospital systems to encourage hospital doctors to issue them reducing the burden on GPs.
Maria Caulfield, minister for patient safety and primary care said that improving access to GP services and reducing unnecessary bureaucracy was ‘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.’
Chloe Smith, minister for disabled people, health and work said the changes would make it easier for patients 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.’
‘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.’