The new rules come into force next month across primary and secondary care.
Nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists will be able to issue fit notes from next month.
Until now, only doctors have legally been able to sign and issue fit notes, sometimes called “sick notes”.
The new rules will support patients to be seen and assessed by the most appropriate healthcare professional and lighten the burden on already over-burdened GPs.
Coming into force on 1 July 2022, the new rules will apply across both primary and secondary care settings and form part of broader series of reforms that also include the ability to issue fit notes digitally.
Fit notes can only legally be issued following a formal assessment of a person’s fitness for work, the Department for Work and Pensions has emphasised.
Reducing unnecessary bureaucracy.
Doctors have welcomed the change emphasising that it may not always be “appropriate for a GP” to issue a fit note given patients’ conditions are managed by a wide range of healthcare workers.
Responding to the news, British Medical Association GP committee deputy chair, Dr Kieran Sharrock said: “This announcement is a positive step and we hope that it will go some way to both improving the process for people who need confirmation that they are too unwell to work, and free-up GPs time to care for patients who need their expertise.
“The BMA has been clear for many years that it may not always be necessary or appropriate for a GP to issue a fit note, especially when a patient has seen a different member of the practice team for their condition, such as a nurse or physiotherapist.
“At a time when the entire NHS is under pressure, reducing unnecessary administration and bureaucracy, while taking a more flexible and pragmatic approach to patient services is absolutely vital.”