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Government to roll out fit note alternative for coronavirus ‘in coming weeks’

The Government will enable plans for NHS 111 to confirm sickness absence for people self-isolating due to coronavirus (Covid-19) ‘in the coming weeks’.

The promise, aimed at relieving GPs, was made in today’s Budget and comes after Pulse revealed the plans last week.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: ‘The Government has already issued guidance to employers, advising them to use their discretion not to require a GP fit note for Covid-19 related absences.

‘This Budget announces that the Government and the NHS will bring forward a temporary alternative to the fit note in the coming weeks which can be used for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak.’

According to Mr Sunak, the move would ‘take pressure’ of GP practices.

He said: ‘This system will enable people who are advised to self-isolate to obtain a notification via NHS 111 which they can use as evidence for absence from work, where necessary. This notification would meet employers’ need for evidence, whilst taking pressure away from general practices.’

He added that ’employers should maintain records of staff absences, but should not require employees to provide a GP fit note’.

The news comes as, earlier this week, health minister Jo Churchill said the Government was in discussions about removing all appropriate bureaucracy to free up GPs to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

GPs caught up in the crisis have also requested an end to health checks, QOF reporting requirements and CQC inspections.

The outbreak of coronavirus has led to a rise in calls to NHS 111 by one third compared to the same period last year, NHS England said this week.

It has already invested £1.7m of extra funding to add clinical phone support, with that figure ‘set to increase if demand continues to rise’.