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Legislation on fit notes enacted

From 1 July 2022, legislation came into force that adds pharmacists and others, such as nurses, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists, to those healthcare professionals that may legally certify fit notes.

Mon 4th July 2022 The PDA

The change in legislation is set to prepare for changes to GP IT systems. This will mean that fit notes, a certificate that outlines any restrictions on a person’s ability to work, can be issued digitally and by members of the primary care team aside from GPs.

A new version of the fit note was introduced in April 2022. In essence, the new version contains the name of the healthcare professional authorising the form, rather than needing it to be physically signed. Changes to IT systems are expected to take place by the start of September 2022, however systems suppliers may be operating on different timescales. In secondary care, it is necessary to continue to use the pre-printed forms supplied by DWP. There will be a transitional period during which both the previous (2017) and 2022 versions of the fit note forms will be legally valid whilst relevant IT systems are updated and stocks of paper fit notes in hospitals are replaced.

Guidance is now available to support this change, which is designed to help and support employers and individuals with the competency, skills, and experience needed to certify fit notes. A training package is also available and should be completed before taking up this task, this is freely accessible for all healthcare professionals, including doctors.

The PDA is reiterating to members that they must make sure that they undertake the training and are professionally competent to carry out the necessary requirements to certify whether a patient is fit to work. As fit notes may also have financial implications for the patient, professionals should also avoid any perceived or actual conflict of interest, such as the patient being from the same household.

As the legislation has been put in place in readiness for the GP IT system changes, the PDA does not anticipate any pharmacists, even when training has been completed, to be undertaking this work immediately from 1 July. The PDA encourages pharmacists to speak with practice colleagues about their expectations and levels of competency ahead of system changes. A review of the implications for indemnity cover for pharmacists working in this area of practice will take place with an update provided as soon as possible.

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