Government revisits fit note agenda

The government has signalled it will explore the amendment of regulations to allow a wider range of eligible healthcare professionals to sign fit notes. 

The Government signalled it may relax rules to allow physios to issue fit notes

If successful, this could mean physiotherapists are able to issue fit notes in the future.

The announcement came in the government’s response to the Health Is Everyone’s Business consultation on ways to reduce ill health-related job loss.

The response also highlighted the use of allied health professional (AHP) Fitness for Work Reports as an alternative to fit note where appropriate – both moves backed by the CSP, which has released an e-learning module for members on fitness for work reports.

Respondents to the consultation, which included employers, healthcare professionals, trade unions and charities, called for more guidance from healthcare professionals on employees’ fitness for work. The report noted the ‘maybe fit’ section on the fit note, which includes the option of a phased return, is currently underused by GPs, with only 7% of fit notes referencing this option.

The government agreed a greater involvement of AHPs in the fitness to work process would ‘enhance work and health conversations and the support provided to both individuals and employers’ by ensuring ‘the appropriate healthcare professional supports work and health conversations including for workplace adjustments or return to work conversations with employers’.

The CSP has welcomed the report’s recognition of the need for more healthcare professionals to be trained and utilised within return to work and workplace conversations, as well as the urgency of addressing issues in the workplace relating to health and wellbeing following the pandemic.

The government response sets out a balanced package of measures that aims to enable and encourage employers to take greater responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their employees, through improved information, advice and access to Occupational Health provision within the workplace.

Its response also highlights how employers must do more to make adjustments for employees in new work settings, for example when working from home. Emerging evidence from early on in lockdown suggests a marked increase in the number of employees with worse symptoms of musculoskeletal pain, higher levels of fatigue, poor sleep, and higher levels of eye strain, calling for a new focus on workplace adjustments.

The consultation was launched by government on 15 July 2019, and had 485 responses from individuals and employers (or their representatives), healthcare professionals, trade unions and charities.

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