NHS Digital has rolled out a new isolation note service that allows workers to sign-off sick for seven days without a GP’s letter.
The service lets staff “self-certify” and then provide “evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate… either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms.”
The system is, arguably, ripe for abuse, but comes as the government aims to reduce pressure on GPs amid a surge in cases.
By law, medical evidence is already not required for the first seven days of sickness.
In updated guidance today, the government said: “We strongly suggest that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home either as they are unwell themselves, or live with someone who is, in accordance with the public health advice issued by the government.
The updated guidance said: “If evidence is required to cover self-isolation or household isolation beyond the first seven days of absence then employees can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online or from the NHS website.”
This suggests that up to two weeks of time off work can now be secured by staff legally without further medical evidence.
Tested by Computer Business Review, the new service required just three clicks, a name and a date of birth to deliver a self-certified sick note in under a minute.
The isolation note service has been commissioned by NHSX — a digital transformation unit within the NHS that launched in 2019 — and built by NHS Digital.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “It is absolutely vital we do everything we can to ease the burden on our healthcare professionals, allowing them to spend as much time as possible with those patients that need them most.
He added: “Digital isolation notes will provide reassurance to those self-isolating and their employers while also reducing the pressure on our NHS, so they can continue doing all they can to protect the people of this country and save lives.
“As isolation notes can be obtained without contacting a doctor, this will reduce the pressure on GP surgeries and prevent people needing to leave their homes.”