Pharmacists certified 1.4% of ‘fit notes’ from GP practices, NHS data show

In the same period, 91.3% of fit notes were certified by doctors, 6.7% by nurses, 0.6% by physiotherapists and 0.03% by occupational therapists.
Statement of fitness to work form

NHS data show that 1.4% of ‘fit notes’ issued from GP practices were certified by pharmacists during a nine-month period in 2023.

Figures published by NHS Digital show that 108,985 (1.4%) of almost 8 million (7,981,327) fit notes issued by GP surgeries between April 2023 and December 2023 were certified by pharmacists.

In the same period, 7,287,306 (91.3%) of fit notes were certified by doctors, 534,393 (6.7%) by nurses, 48,459 (0.6%) by physiotherapists and 2,184 (0.03%) by occupational therapists.

Prior to July 2022, only registered medical practitioners could certify statements of fitness for work, but legislation laid before Parliament in June 2022 to amend the Social Security (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1976 gave pharmacists, nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists the authority to issue the notes.

The Department of Health and Social Care told The Pharmaceutical Journal in June 2022 that the policy was “aimed at pharmacists working within general practices or hospital settings where they are able to assess patient’s fitness for work” and did not include community pharmacists.

In April 2024, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published a call for evidence in relation to fit note reform, which is open until 8 July 2024.

The call for evidence document says there has been “low uptake” of the 2022 reform allowing a wider variety of healthcare professionals to certify fit notes. 

The document added that “only 8.4% of fit notes” were issued by these healthcare professionals other than doctors between April and September 2023.

To help address this, the DWP updated its fit note guidance for healthcare professionals, employers and employees in October 2023.

Plans to reform the fit note process set out in the government’s 2023 autumn statement suggested “end-to-end reforms of the fit note process to support more people to resume work after a period of illness”.

A spokesperson for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “The RPS will be working with our Primary Care Pharmacy Expert Advisory Group and will be engaging with the DWP for its call for evidence”.

In guidance published on 1 July 2022, the RPS recommended that pharmacists should complete training offered by Health Education England before signing fit notes.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2024, Vol 312, No 7984;312(7984)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.309677

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