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Petition launched to allow advanced healthcare practitioners to sign fit notes

by Valeria Fiore
24 October 2018

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A petition has been launched calling for advanced healthcare practitioners (AHPs) to be able to sign fit notes (med 3 forms). 
The petition, started earlier this month by advanced nurse practitioner at St James’s University Hospital Anna Crowther, aims for AHPs to have the authority to sign patient fit notes – to save the NHS time and improve efficiency.
Ms Crowther told Management in Practice that several of her colleagues in general practice have expressed that this is an ongoing problem affecting GP surgeries and that said they would therefore back her petition.
Launched at the beginning of October, the petition already has over 1,300 signatures.
Change in legislation
At present, only GPs can sign fit notes in general practices.
However, separate to the petition, a Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson told Management in Practice that they are working towards the commitment they made last year – to legislate for other healthcare professionals to be able to sign fit notes. 
In 2017 the Government committed to workign towards legislation permitting fit notes to be signed by other health professionals.
However, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Management in Practice that they cannot provide a timeline at this stage of the policy’s development.
A welcome change
GPs and practice managers have welcomed the petition, adding that the change in legislation will reduce admin pressure on GPs.
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘At a time when admin has become increasingly burdensome in general practice, compounding existing workload issues, it makes perfect sense for the health professional seeing the patient to issue fit notes where needed, removing the added layer of bureaucracy involved in getting it signed off by a GP.’
Mark Thomas, practice manager at Chelston Hall Surgery in Torquay, Devon signed the petition and said that ‘change would be preferred tomorrow’.
He added: ‘I have advanced nurse practitioners who can treat, prescribe and refer to secondary care but for the same patient needs a GP signature for a fit note.’
In the GPFV, the NHS stated that the health sector needs a minimum of 5,000 non-medical staff – including advanced nurse practitioners, clinical pharmacists, physician associates, physiotherapists and paramedics, working in general practice by 2020/21.
For this reason Richard Miller, practice manager at the Great Bentley Surgery in Colchester, said that in line with the GPFV ‘it would make sense for as much admin as possible to be delegated to these other health professionals’.
He added: ‘Med 3 forms can take a huge amount of GP time and could easily be done by others, but currently by law they cannot be. This Government needs to align legislation to its aims.’