Sick notes to be automated through NHS 111 to prevent Covid-19 spread


People with suspected coronavirus will soon be able to have a sick note issued digitally through NHS 111.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a raft of measures in this year’s budget to support the NHS during the spread of Covid-19. Part of the £30 billion package was the automation of sick notes for patients who are self-isolating.

The service is being built “as swiftly as possible”, according to an NHS Digital spokesperson.

“Once built, the system will work by generating a personalised document at the end of a 111 online triage process if it recommends that the patient self-isolates due to potential coronavirus symptoms,” the spokesperson told Digital Health News.

Currently, when a person becomes ill they can self-certify for up to seven days, but any time taken off work from then requires a fit note from a doctor for continued sick pay.

Under the new system, people will be able to provide a note to their employer without having face-to-face contact with GP services, reducing the likelihood that the virus would be spread.

“Government has already issued guidance that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence to avoid people who should be self-isolating having cause to visit their GP for a fit note, especially given the risk of spreading infection, and increasing the burden on the NHS,” the NHS Digital spokesperson added.

“This new temporary system will enable people who are advised to self-isolate over the coming weeks and months to obtain a notification via NHS 111 online. This notification can then be used as evidence for absence from work, if required.”

The system is being built in-house and will be integrated into NHS 111.

NHS Digital is working with NHSX and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to develop the system. DWP will continue to update employers on how the system will work.

“The system is still in development and more detail will follow in the coming days. We are working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions who will update their guidance for employers on how the system will work,” an NHS Digital spokesperson said.

“The service will be integrated into NHS 111 online, which can be reached at 111.nhs.uk or through the NHS App. You do not have to be registered or logged in on the NHS App to access the 111 online service.”

NHS England launched an update to NHS 111 last week in order to help people get quick advice about coronavirus, after a surge of enquiries to the health service.

The service provides people with approved advice and frees up clinical call handlers’ time so they are able to prioritise 111 phone callers experiencing symptoms.

Since its launch on 4 March more than one million people have accessed the service, NHSE has revealed.

At its peak, the service received more than 210,000 enquiries in a single day.

GPs have also been urged to go digital in a bid to mitigate to potential spread of coronavirus. In a letter to GPs last week, NHS England urged Britain’s 7,000 GP surgeries to reduce face-to-face appoints for patients displaying symptoms of Covid-19.

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