Giving physiotherapists permission to issue patients with fit notes would significantly improve patient care and ease pressure on over-taxed GPs, one organisation has argued.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) quoted figures from NHS Digital showing that musculoskeletal (MSK) problems are now the second most common reason for fit notes being issued in the UK, accounting for 18 per cent of such documents.
It said legislative changes should be made so that doctors are not the only professionals who can provide patients with them and pointed out that physios are equally if not better qualified to sign people off work where MSK problems are concerned.
"Doing that would free up GPs while ensuring patients receive expert advice on their condition at the point of being signed off to help them get back to work as soon as they feel able," said CSP spokesperson Natalie Beswetherick.
"There would also be benefits for people with long-term conditions, who at present must make an additional GP appointment to get signed off when they suffer a setback," she added.
The CSP has already spoken to representatives from the Democratic Unionist Party, who have agreed to back the fit note campaign as the Department for Work and Pensions carries out a review of the process.
According to the Office for National Statistics, MSK problems were the second most common reason for sickness absence from work last year, with 30.8 million days lost compared to 34 million for minor illnesses such as coughs and colds.
Many MSK problems in the UK are work-related, with the country losing some 8.8 million working days in 2016 due to conditions including neck and back pain, tendonitis and repetitive strain injury caused by doing certain jobs.
A number of people who suffer these kinds of injuries require physiotherapy before they can return to work and so would be well-placed to access fit notes via such professionals.