Professor Jo Martin, President, The Royal College of Pathologists:
“Introducing medical examiners is a vital step in the drive to improve patient safety in the NHS. We have long campaigned for their implementation and this announcement is welcome news. There is real commitment and eagerness to begin work and many trusts have already set up their own medical examiner schemes and are reporting that bereaved families are satisfied with the system. The Royal College of Pathologists is the lead medical royal college for medical examiners and is ready to provide the training and support they need.”
Medical examiner pilot schemes have provided reassurance to the next of kin, identified problems with care at an early stage, ensured the right referrals to the coroner, improved the accuracy of death certification and led to a reduction in cases of litigation against the NHS.
The system that will be rolled out in 2019 will be limited to hospital deaths. Following a recommendation from Dame Janet Smith, who chaired the public inquiry into the murders by the GP Harold Shipman, the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 made provision for the introduction of medical examiners to scrutinise all deaths that are not referred to the coroner.
This phased implementation will allow for a period of preparation by the various organisations involved before the scheme is rolled out to cover primary and community care.
Government consultation response
The government has also published the responses to their consultation on death certification reforms.