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Causes of death to be scrutinised in revamp of death certificates

From September, medical examiners will look at the cause of death in all cases that have not been referred to the coroner in a move designed to help strengthen safeguards and prevent criminal activity.

They will also consult with families or representatives of the deceased, providing an opportunity for them to raise questions or concerns with a senior doctor not involved in the care of the person who died.

The changes demonstrate the government’s commitment to providing greater transparency after a death and will ensure the right deaths are referred to coroners for further investigation.

Health Minister, Maria Caulfield, said: "Reforming death certification is a highly complex and sensitive process, so it was important for us to make sure we got these changes right.

"At such a difficult time, it’s vital that bereaved families have full faith in how the death of their loved one is certified and have their voices heard if they are concerned in any way. The measures I’m introducing will ensure all deaths are reviewed and the bereaved are fully informed, making the system safer by improving protections against rare abuses."

Medical examiners are senior medical doctors that independently scrutinise the causes of death. Since 2019, NHS Trusts have appointed medical examiners to scrutinise most deaths in acute healthcare settings and some community settings on a non-statutory basis.

From 9 September 2024 it will become a requirement that all deaths in any health setting that are not referred to the coroner in the first instance are subject to medical examiner scrutiny.

Welcoming the announcement, Dr Suzy Lishman CBE, Senior Advisor on Medical Examiners for the Royal College of Pathologists, said: "As the lead college for medical examiners, the Royal College of Pathologists welcomes the announcement of the statutory implementation date for these important death certification reforms.

"Medical examiners are already scrutinising the majority of deaths in England and Wales, identifying concerns, improving care for patients and supporting bereaved people. The move to a statutory system in September will further strengthen those safeguards, ensuring that all deaths are reviewed and that the voices of all bereaved people are heard."

National Medical Examiner, Dr Alan Fletcher, said: "I am delighted that the statutory basis for independent medical examiners is confirmed. This will ensure all bereaved people have a voice, supporting patient safety learning and improvement, including through accurate coroner referrals."

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Upcoming Events

BAUN Summer Educational Event – Essential Urology Skills

Crowne Plaza, Newcastle Stephenson Quarter
6th June 2024

The AfPP Roadshow - Exeter

University of Exeter
22nd June 2024

EBME Expo

Coventry Building Society Arena
26th - 27th June 2024

The AfPP Roadshow - Cardiff

TBA, Cardiff
13th July 2024

AfPP Annual Conference 2024

University of Warwick
2nd - 3rd August 2024

The AfPP Roadshow - London

Cavendish Conference Centre, London
14th September 2024

Access the latest issue of Clinical Services Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

Download the FREE Clinical Services Journal app from your device's App store

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