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Physiotherapists are to be granted the ability to sign fit notes for patients as part of new measures announced by the UK government.
Prime minister Theresa May last week revealed that parliament is introducing new initiatives to bring more disabled people into the country's workforce, with Mrs May declaring: "Everyone deserves the chance to find a job that's right for them."
As part of this, fit note certification powers will be extended significantly. At the moment, only GPs are allowed to declare an individual fit for work, but the government has proposed that physiotherapists, senior nursing staff and psychiatrists should also have this power in the future.
This will help to fast-track returns to work for thousands of people, with Mrs May wanting one million more people with disabilities in the UK's workforce within the next ten years.
In particular, the government wants to make sure that a greater number of individuals with musculoskeletal conditions are being given the assistance they need to enter a workplace.
Granting fit note signing powers to experts such as physiotherapists will mean that patients will be able to receive a different level of support to help them to return to work than they have been able to access in the past.
Physios can work with patients' future employers to ensure they are given space and time to complete any exercises that are vital to safeguarding their physical health - stretches to ease musculoskeletal pain, for instance.
The announcement has been welcomed by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, with its chief executive Professor Karen Middleton stating: "The proposal to allow physiotherapists to issue fit notes is excellent news for patients, as is the focus on musculoskeletal conditions, which are one of the leading reasons for sickness absence in the UK.
"Physiotherapists are experts in rehabilitation, but also in understanding a person's condition and identifying what adaptations can be made to enable them to return to work."
Written by Mathew Horton
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