How fit note changes affect you – all you need to know about being signed off

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As of July 1, Britons will have faster and easier access to fit notes in Government efforts to crack down on GPs’ hefty workloads. Until now, it was just doctors who could authorise a fit note. Today, the authorisation group has expanded to include nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and physiotherapists.

As a service with a notoriously long waiting list for treatments, obtaining a fit note from a GP has got increasingly hard over the years.

The latest figures for April show a record of over 6.48 million people awaiting NHS treatment, including more than 300,000 who have been waiting over 12 months, and the 2.48 million who have been waiting for over 18 weeks. 

The wider pool of healthcare professionals with the authority to sign off fit notes is designed to substantially “relieve” pressures on GPs and move services along faster.

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Chloe Smith MP said: “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.”

Pledging to oversee a “digital revolution” to accelerate NHS access, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid MP 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.

“That’s why we have introduced these powers to ensure certifying fit notes can be carried out by other healthcare professionals – helping to relieve pressures on GPs so they can focus on patients and deliver an extra 50 million appointments a year by 2024.”

These new rule changes come shortly after the first alteration to relax measures in April, which allowed GPs to sign off fit notes digitally rather than having to hand-write them.

The change to fit notes applies across England, Scotland and Wales and is being mirrored in Northern Ireland.

What is a fit note?

Formally known as “Fitness for Work” notes, the certificate comes in the shape of written evidence that your health is affecting your fitness for work, thus confirming eligibility for sick pay.

Employees must give their employer a ‘fit note’ if they have taken time off work sick for more than seven days in a row – including non-working days, such as weekends and bank holidays.

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A fit note can be issued by the healthcare professional who’s treating you, and they’ll do so after carrying out an assessment of how your health might affect you at work.

Once acquired, the fit note is your property and it’s advised to always keep the original note – your employer should take a copy.

As well as providing written evidence as to why you can’t be at work and aiding with any sick pay rights, fit notes can also be used to back up benefit claims, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Who can now authorise a fit note?

As of July 1, the following healthcare professionals have the authority to sign off a fit note:

  • GP or hospital doctor
  • Registered nurse
  • Pharmacist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Occupational therapists

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