In a major change to Fit Note (medical certificates) Regulations, these can currently only be produced by Doctors, the Government has announced that the ability to issue these will be extended to a number of other regulated professionals.

This is designed to take considerable pressure off GP surgeries, many of whom complain they spend their life issuing and arguing about Fit Notes.

So, from 1st July 2022, the following registered professionals will be able to issue Fit Notes:

  • Pharmacists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Nurses
  • Physiotherapists

The announcement, which can be read here (More healthcare professionals given powers to certify Fit Notes – GOV.UK) makes it clear that these are not just to be issued over the counter. A proper assessment of an individual’s fitness must take place first.

There is some logic to these proposals. For instance, someone who is clearly badly injured and has been treated by a nurse or a physiotherapist does not need to go back to the surgery for a much sought-after appointment, just to pick up a Fit Note signed off by a GP. Likewise, someone who presents themselves at a pharmacy with flu-like symptoms does not need to use up valuable surgery time.

It has been broadly welcomed by the governing bodies of each of these professions, although how it plays out in practice remains to be seen.

If you are a sceptical employer, or there is a culture of absenteeism in your organisation, then you may well be worried it will exacerbate the problem. If you are concerned that an unauthorised person has signed the certificate, then you should be to check their status here (Check the health and care professionals’ Register).

Likewise, for individuals that are regularly absent, having multiple opportunities to get Fit Notes signed off may seem beneficial. But in reality, anyone can feign illness if they are prepared to do so, and the employer should have sufficiently robust procedures in place to manage absenteeism and sickness.

It also gives us an opportunity to underline that Fit Notes are not legally binding documents, they are purely medical guidance provided to the employee. This does not mean that an organisation can choose to ignore every Fit Note that it sees, merely that it should be seen as part of an attendance and return to work process.

Where an employee is signed off and wishes to return to work earlier, for instance, this can be accommodated. Individual consultation, a jointly agreed risk assessment and a proper plan for their return, including reasonable adjustments, such as a phased return to work, is strongly advisable and is good practice.

Just because nurses and others will be able to issue Fit Notes does not mean that all will do so. This appears to have been announced with minimal consultation and notice, and we are not convinced, as yet, that there is massive enthusiasm from the named health professionals that they will want to be put in the position of having to sign of Fit Notes after an assessment.

So, we await the detail. We suspect that many pharmacies and GP practices will either choose not to allow it, or will want to do so only after people have been properly trained.

As the Government continues to grapple with the crisis in the NHS, and as GPs continue to report an overwhelming workload, these changes could at least relieve some bottlenecks. And should allow those who genuinely need to be signed off sick to do so without having to wait two weeks for an actual appointment, or more likely, simply a quick telephone call as currently seems to take place.




The guidance provided in this article is just that – guidance. Before taking any action, make sure that you know what you are doing, or call an expert for specific advice.