Nurses given power to certify ‘fit notes’ for benefit claimants

Benefit claimants are often required to provide fit notes as evidence they are 'unfit for work'.

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From today (Friday 1 July 2022) nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists can all legally certify fit notes, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced.

According to the DWP, today’s change will help by “reducing the pressure on NHS doctors, particularly GPs and scrapping unnecessary bureaucracy”.

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Regulations were laid on 10 June 2022 to allow more healthcare professionals to certify fit notes in addition to GPs. These professions are nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and physiotherapists.

Updated guidance to these health care professionals and their employers on these changes is also being published today.

The DWP argue that today’s change will help to “support people to remain in work while managing a health condition”.

The change, which applies across England, Scotland and Wales and is being mirrored in Northern Ireland, aims to utilise “the expertise of a wider range of healthcare professionals” and simplify the process of obtaining fit notes for patients “to get advice certified by the most relevant healthcare professional”.

According to the DWP, “it will also improve a patient’s experience and reduce pressure on doctors, as people will no longer have to be sent to a doctor to have the fit note signed when seeing and receiving treatment from an alternative professional for their health condition.”

Fit notes, which were previously known as sick notes, are sometimes required by the DWP to provide proof that a person is currently ‘unfit for work’. They provide evidence for claims to benefits for those who are out of work.

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

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