In an attempt to reduce the workload of GPs, the UK is planning to introduce a new National Health Service (NHS) algorithm that will enable self-issued sick notes.

The move is part of the government’s effort to reform the sick note system, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is seeking not only to alleviate GPs, but also end the “sick note culture.”

“We need to change the sick note culture so the default becomes what work you can do — not what you can’t,” Sunak said during a speech last week.

According to NHS data, 11 million sick notes were issued last year, with 94% of those signed as “not fit for work.” The government also said that the total current spending on working age disability and ill-health benefits stands at £69bn — higher than the budget for core schools or policing.

While ministers haven’t yet disclosed details on the NHS algorithm, they said that tech pilots are underway to test “triage services” that support people during the sick note process in a way that suits both their health and employment needs.

The rationale behind the pilots is better allocation of resources. For example, for individuals with short-term illnesses or recovery times such systems could bypass the need for GPs, freeing up their time for those who need additional support.

The algorithm is only one idea being currently tested, according to government sources who spoke to the London Times.

Whether the potential tool will be based on a mobile or web app is still unknown, but it’s bound to require additional safeguards to ensure privacy, gain public trust, and avoid misuse.

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