DOCTORS in Oxfordshire sign 236 'fit notes', on average, every day according to the latest NHS figures.

GPs working in the NHS Oxfordshire CCG issued a total of 86,318 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.

The move has been welcomed by doctors' leaders, who say it will ease the pressure on GPs.

People in work need a fit note, previously called a sick note, if they are off work for more than seven days.

Across England, 5.7 million fit notes were handed out over the 12 months to the end of June.

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson 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, chair 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.

In Oxfordshire, the average monthly rate of fit notes was 1,579 per 100,000 working age people registered with a GP.

Of the 86,318 notes signed over 12 months in Oxfordshire, 11,981 were issued for mental health issues and 7,116 for back problems.

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

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