Patients with suspected coronavirus (Covid-19) who self-isolate can request a confirmation email from NHS 111 instead of a sick note from their GP, Government lawyers have said.
In a debate held yesterday in Parliament, Lord in waiting Lord Bethell said that patients who self-isolate will not have to see their GP to claim a fit note.
Instead, they can ask NHS 111 to issue them with an email confirming the diagnosis.
Lord Bethell was responding to a question from health shadow spokesperson Baroness Thornton who said: ‘The Prime Minister said today that workers who self-isolate will be considered to be on sick leave. Can he confirm that those who need to self-isolate will not need to visit a GP to receive a sick note?’
Responding, he said: ‘Government lawyers have looked at sickness pay arrangements and it is very clear that those who self-isolate qualify immediately for statutory sickness pay. They may self-validate for seven days.
‘After the seven days, they may seek an email confirmation of the diagnosis by dialling 111, thereby avoiding an unnecessary and potentially dangerous trip to either their GP or to hospital.’
But in a separate debate, health secretary Matt Hancock said the Government was ‘holding this area under review’ and that work was ‘ongoing’.
He said: ‘For those who need to self-isolate for medical reasons to protect others, that counts as being off sick. They do not need to go to a GP, because there is a seven-day allowance for self-declaration.’
Shadow SNP spokesperson for health and social care Dr Philippa Whitford challenged Mr Hancock on his claim, pointing out that isolation is recommended for 14 days and ‘we do not want people turning up at their GP surgery halfway through that period’.
In response, Mr Hancock said: ‘That is indeed the sort of reason why we are holding this area under review and there is work ongoing, including on the points she has raised.’
In an action plan to tackle a UK coronavirus outbreak, published yesterday, the Government asked employers to ‘use their discretion’ when considering medical evidence for people self-isolating due to Covid-19 exposure.
On the latest count, a total of 16,659 people had been tested in the UK, of which 85 were confirmed positive – 32 more than yesterday. Out of the new cases, three patients contracted the virus in the UK.
The Government is preparing for a worst-case scenario where 80% of the population get the virus and one fifth of the workforce is off work at the peak of the outbreak.
Under the Government’s plans to deal with the situation, retired GPs may be called back to the workforce, non-urgent care may be delayed and health professionals will have powers to detain people in quarantine areas if they suspect them of having the virus.