The Department for Work & Pensions has updated its suite of guidance documents to reflect changes to the fit note rules which took effect on 1 July. These allow a greater range of health professionals to issue fit notes, and follow the recent removal of the requirement for wet ink signatures.
As the updated guidance for employers explains, fit notes can now be issued by nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists in addition to doctors, provided they are responsible for the assessment of a worker’s fitness for work. Fit notes are not part of the NHS services which community pharmacies provide, so there has been no change to the rules on that front.
The revised guidance for healthcare professionals spells out how it is hoped the new flexibilities will work in more detail:
"Fit notes can be issued in any relevant setting where an assessment of patients’ fitness for work is made. It is important that the healthcare professional responsible for the episode of care is the one who issues the fit note if it is within their ability. It is critical that patients are not signposted to other healthcare professionals purely for the purposes of certifying a fit note where this is avoidable, such as part of hospital discharges."
These recent changes do not change the fundamentals of employers’ responsibilities to employees in receipt of fit notes. But it is hoped that they will make the process of issuing them quicker and more responsive, which should benefit both workers and employers.