The duty of signing fit notes for work may be extended to primary care staff other than GPs, the government has said.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said in a green paper that it “intends to review the current operation of the fit note” including looking at “whether fit note certification should be extended from doctors in primary care and other settings to other healthcare professionals”.
The Government said the review comes as it has noted the fit note scheme “is not fully achieving what it set out to do”.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: “There needs to be a greater focus on the important role employers have in supporting their employees at times of illness and stress.
“GPs are not occupational health specialists and GPC has repeatedly called for the role GPs have in issuing fit notes to be reduced with greater access to occupational health specialists,” he said.
Rather than addressing the GPC’s concerns, the government may include nurses and other primary care professionals in this role following its wider review of the Fitness to Work scheme.
Fit notes or Statements of Fitness for Work were introduced in 2010 to encourage fuller discussions about work and health between employees and health professionals.
The notes are used to support payment of Statutory Sick Pay by employers or as medical validation to make a claim to health-related benefits.
“We want to make the benefits of work an ingrained part of the training and professional approach of the health and social care workforce,” the DWP said.
This message will be reinforced in medical and nursing undergraduate programmes and current healthcare professionals will receive further training on the links between work and health and how to embed this as part of care plans.