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Sick note: Why you no longer need to ask your GP for one – new government rules

Stephen Powis discusses 'enormous' NHS backlog

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From now on patients will no longer need to ask their GP for a sick note – otherwise known as a fit note. As of July 1 this year, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists will also be able to issue them. It is planned this will cut demand on NHS doctors and “slash unnecessary bureaucracy”.

Government ministers have also said the change will allow patients to get advice from the most relevant professional.

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.”

The updated instructions also set out how to help people stay in work while living with a health condition.

“Doing the right kind of work is good for your health, including if you have a health condition,” the government guidance explains.

“You do not always need to be fully recovered to go back to work, and in fact it can often help your recovery.

“Your fit note can help you go back to work when you are able to.

“Your healthcare professional will not automatically assess that you are not fit for work if you have a health condition.

“Instead, they will discuss with you how your health affects what you can do at work.

“They will think about your fitness for work in general rather than just your current job.

“You should ask your healthcare professional to give you practical advice in the fit note about what you can do at work, rather than simply record your health condition.”

It adds: “You should then discuss this advice with your employer, to see if they can make any changes to help you return to work.”

The move has been welcomed by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Head of nursing practice at the RCN, Wendy Preston, said: “We have been pushing and influencing for this to happen.

“Nursing staff are often the first people patients see, particularly in primary care and especially those living with a long-term condition who may need time off to manage their condition at times.

“These changes will allow nurses to serve the needs of their patients and reduce unnecessary appointments with other health care professionals.”

It comes as the latest figures for April 2022 show a record of more than 6.48 million people waiting for treatment – up from 4.43 million in February 2020.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid commented: “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.”

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