The government has confirmed that legislation is expected to be laid in parliament today [Friday 10 June] to allow more healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, across England, Scotland and Wales to certify fit notes for patients.
Currently only doctors can legally certify fit notes, but from 1 July 2022 nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and pharmacists will be given the power to do so.
The change will be delivered in general practice and hospital settings. Pharmacists working in community pharmacies will not be able to offer the service as fit notes are not part of the NHS services community pharmacies provide.
Fit notes can only be issued following an assessment of a patient’s fitness for work; therefore, it is appropriate that they are provided by a clinician with a holistic oversight of the individual’s condition. Pharmacists working in multidisciplinary teams within general practices or hospital settings who are able to assess patients in this way, will be able to provide fit notes, but certain conditions must be in place.
Pharmacists should be working in a suitable environment and have the necessary skills and training to have work and health conversations with people. Providing fit notes needs to be within the pharmacists’ professional ‘scope of practice’, therefore new guidance and training has been developed which will help professionals identify if this task is suitable for them.
The new legislation aims to support an increased move towards a diverse and multi-disciplinary workforce and reduce the demand on doctors, particularly in primary care, as being the sole profession that can certify and issue fit notes.
Chief Executive of the GPhC, Duncan Rudkin, said:
“Whilst pharmacists will have the legal power to certify fit notes, not everybody working as a pharmacist will be able to, or should, issue fit notes.
“Pharmacists who are considering providing a fit note service in the future should make sure they are following the relevant legislation and guidance, as well as our standards for pharmacy professionals, at all times.”