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Pharmacists to be allowed to issue ‘fit notes’ in bid to ease burden on GPs

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In a bid to ease ‘fit notes’ burden on GPs, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals in England, Wales and Scotland will be allowed to sign people off work under new laws which come into effect on July 1.

However, it’s unclear if the new measure includes community pharmacists or it it’s restricted to pharmacists working in general practice. Pharmacy Business is waiting for clarification from the Department of Health and Social Care.

Responding to news, RPS president Claire Anderson said: “Pharmacists are taking on increasingly clinical roles, and the provision of a fit note may be an appropriate part of a consultation with a patient. However, we have a number of concerns that must be addressed to enable pharmacists to provide fit notes.

“First, although pharmacists working in general practices have access to medical records, this is not the case for community pharmacists: it is essential that this is changed to ensure pharmacists have access to all the information required to be able to safely issue a fit note.

“Second, pharmacists already have a significant workload so additional roles must be properly planned for and funded services developed.

“Finally, it is essential that the public is given clear information about where fit notes can be obtained from and not misled that they can be provided by all pharmacists.”

Employers ask people who are off work for more than seven consecutive days to produce fitness notes from a healthcare professional which now can be issued by pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, in addition to GPs.

These notes state whether a patient is ‘unfit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’ with some workplace adjustments.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “I know how important it is for people to be able to see their GP speedily and in the way they want.

“That’s why we are slashing bureaucracy to reduce GPs workloads, so they can focus on seeing patients and giving people the care they urgently need.

“It is part of our mission to deliver an extra 50 million GP appointments a year by 2024.”

Pharmacy minister Maria Caulfield said the move was “another step towards helping to deliver an extra 50million appointments in general practice a year by 2024.”

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