People will no longer need to ask their GP for a sick or fit note from Friday.
Nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists will be able to certify fit notes, as well as doctors from 1 July in a bid to cut pressure on NHS GPs and "slash unnecessary bureaucracy".
Fit notes provide evidence to employers about a person’s absence and any relevant advice on how to support their employees to remain in or return to work. But with GP services so stretched, obtaining fit notes has been challenging for some employees.
The updated guidance sets out how to support people to remain in work while managing a health condition.
Ministers said the change – which applies across England, Scotland and Wales and is being mirrored in Northern Ireland – will make it easier to get advice certified by the most relevant healthcare professional.
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People will no longer have to be sent to a doctor to have a fit note signed when seeing and receiving treatment from an alternative professional for their health condition.
Chloe Smith, Minister for Disabled People, said: “Having a health condition doesn’t have to take you out of a job. This change will make it easier for people and employers to get the advice they need so people can stay in work, whilst also reducing bureaucracy and freeing up doctors’ time.
“Too often we see people being faced with unnecessary challenges to get a fit note. More professionals being able to offer this vital service will speed up the process and support people to return to or remain in work.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Slashing unnecessary bureaucracy is key to ensuring more patients can see their GP quickly and get the care they need as we bust the Covid backlogs.“
Wendy Preston, the Royal College of Nursing’s head of nursing practice, described it as a "positive step":
“Nursing staff are often the first people patients see, particularly in primary care, and especially for those living with a long-term condition who may need time off to manage their condition at times."
Abigail Maino, a partner in the employment team at law firm DMH Stallard, said: "Fit notes are not solely designed to confirm an employee is unfit to work; they can suggest appropriate support and adjustments to enable the employee to remain in or return to work. In practice, suggestions for support or adjustments are uncommon.
"If employees are able to receive an assessment from a more specialist healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist, then it would be hoped that more tailored advice can be given in via the fit note, reducing the time an employee is absent.
"Whether this will happen in practice remains to be seen, as employees are still likely to contact their GP in the first instance for a fit note."