DOCTORS in Brighton and Hove sign 42 people off sick every day with more than 150 more given notes in the rest of Sussex.

GPs working in the NHS Brighton and Hove CCG issued a total of 15,175 notes between July 2017 and June this year.

But the rules are to be changed to allow other health workers to sign people off sick, reducing the workload faced by doctors.

The Department for Work and Pensions says that it will legislate to allow other health professionals to certify people as unable to work.

People in work need a fit note, previously called a sick note, if they are off work for more than seven days. Up to that point they can self-certify that they are unwell.

Doctors in Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford sign 78 fit notes daily while in the coastal West Sussex NHS area the figure is 77, the latest NHS figures show. Of the 15,175 notes signed over the 12 months in Brighton and Hove, 2,554 were issued for mental health issues and 946 for back problems.

The number of fit notes signed in the three areas from July 2017 to June this year is up on the previous 12 months despite under-reporting in February caused by technical issues.

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We want to reduce the burden on GPs and that’s why we intend to legislate for the extension of fit note certification to other healthcare professionals. We will work with the NHS on this.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It is vital that a robust system is in place to ensure people are fit for work, and if they are not, then they have ready access to the appropriate care and services to improve their quality of life.

“At a time when our workload in general practice is escalating in both volume and complexity – and when patients are waiting longer and longer for appointments – we would certainly welcome exploring whether other highly skilled clinical members of the practice team can share some of these responsibilities.”

The British Medical Association said that if another health professional, such as a physiotherapist, was treating a patient, they should be able to certify fitness for work rather than additionally involving a doctor.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA GP committee, said: “At a time when admin has become increasingly burdensome in general practice, compounding existing workload issues, it makes perfect sense for the healthcare professional seeing the patient to issue fit notes where needed, removing the added layer of bureaucracy involved in getting it signed off by an individual GP.

In Brighton and Hove, the average monthly rate of fit notes was 1,380 per 100,000 working age people registered with a GP.

The highest rate was 3,695 in Halton, Cheshire.

The lowest rate was 851 in Richmond, London.

The most common reasons that doctors signed people off work were mental and behavioural disorders, particularly stress, and muscoskeletal conditions, such as back problems.

Women were signed off sick more than men. They received 57 per cent of the fit notes across England in the 12 months.