Pharmacists should complete training offered by Health Education England (HEE) before signing fit notes, following recent legislative changes, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.
In guidance published on 1 July 2022, the RPS advises pharmacists on considerations they should make before issuing fit notes, including ensuring access to clinical records and receiving “an initial period of mentorship”.
Legislation was laid before Parliament on 10 June 2022, with plans to amend the Social Security (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1976 to allow pharmacists, as well as nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists, to certify fit notes from 1 July 2022. Previously, only registered medical practitioners could issue fit notes.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) later told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the policy change “is aimed at pharmacists working within general practices or hospital settings where they are able to assess patient’s fitness for work”.
The RPS guidance notes that “community pharmacy has not been commissioned to certify fit notes”, adding that the sector will not have access to the necessary health records required to support them in this role.
However, it adds that “private community services providing fit notes may emerge in time”.
“Pharmacists working in multidisciplinary teams in general practice and secondary care may have a role in certifying fit notes as soon as they’re ready and able to,” the guidance says, adding that pharmacists working in these settings “should complete ‘the fit note module’” on HEE’s e-learning for healthcare platform.
The guidance also recommends pharmacists ensure that sufficient time is allocated for dealing with fit note processes, and that the pharmacist is able to deal with the additional workload.
On 1 July 2022, a statement from HEE said that the training module has been made available in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions, which implemented the legislative changes.
Mark Radford, deputy chief executive officer at HEE, said: “We welcome this change in the law and also the opportunity to develop services more flexibly and build on the skills of expert nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.”
The DHSC also published guidance on 1 July 2022 for healthcare professionals regarding the updated legislation.
It said the change “recognises that healthcare professionals from a range of disciplines now play a central role alongside doctors in leading the delivery of healthcare and support for patients to enable them to manage their health and wellbeing”.