Change will make it easier to get fit note for work or benefits

A range of different health professionals in Northern Ireland are now able to certify whether someone is fit enough to work.

Until now, only doctors could sign a fit note but new legislation means that authorised nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists can now also certify and issue the documentation,

The change - announced today (July 19) - means that patients will be able to get advice and fit notes from their healthcare professional - without having to separately see a doctor. Fit notes are also set to go fully digital in the future, meaning they will no longer need to be signed in ink.

A fit note, also known as a statement for fitness to work, is a medical statement that issues to patients whose health condition affects their ability to work.

Fit notes can now be obtained in Northern Ireland from a variety of health professionals.

If an employee or potential benefit claimant has been off work with illness for more than seven days, a fit note provides evidence of their incapacity and relevant advice on how to support them to remain in or return to work.

Health Minister Robin Swann said he was delighted to introduce the new legislation in Northern Ireland.

“This change will make it easier for people and employers to get the advice they need so people can stay in work and will help free up doctors’ time.

“Too often we see people being faced with unnecessary challenges to get a fit note. More professionals being able to offer this vital service will speed up the process and support people to return to or remain in work.”

The Department of Health said the change will be delivered by authorised nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists in general practice and hospital settings where fit notes are currently provided and recognises the valuable role other professions have to play in providing health and work advice and supporting people to remain in work where possible.

What is a fit note?

Fit notes provide evidence to employers about a person’s absence and any relevant advice on how to support their employees to remain in or return to work. They also provide evidence for claims to benefits for those who are out of work.

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The change regarding who can issue a fit note was implemented in other parts of the UK on July 1.