29 November 2017

Professor Jo Martin responds to the Secretary of State for Health’s announcement that cases of stillbirth should be independently investigated

President of The Royal College of Pathologists Professor Jo Martin said:

“This is an important step in helping parents to get answers to what happened. It will also enable the NHS to learn where mistakes may have been made and to improve future care.

In the longer term, we think that all cases of stillbirth should initially be reported to a medical examiner for review who would then decide which cases should be referred to the coroner for further investigation.” 

A national network of medical examiners will be introduced from 2019 to provide independent scrutiny of deaths not reported to the coroner, initially working independently across hospital Trusts, their role will be extended to also examine deaths in the community.

The scheme which has been extensively piloted, has shown that medical examiners are ideally placed to identify trends relating to deaths and highlight areas for further investigation, giving relatives the answers they deserve and improving care for future patients.

The Morecambe Bay Investigation into the deaths of 11 babies at Furness General Hospital recommended that the role of medical examiner should be extended to include review of stillbirths.