In his new role, Dr Fletcher will oversee the introduction of the medical examiner system in England and Wales. The new system will ensure that every death in an acute hospital is scrutinised by either a medical examiner or a coroner so that issues with patient care can be identified quickly to improve services for others.
Medical examiners will also contact families shortly after they have been bereaved to ensure that any concerns they have about their loved one’s care are listened to and considered at the earliest opportunity.
Dr Alan Fletcher, the newly appointed national medical examiner, said:
“I am delighted to be given the opportunity to lead the medical examiner system in England and Wales.
Having worked on the system’s first pilot for the last decade, I have seen first-hand the crucial role that independent medical examiners can play in giving those bereaved a voice, while ensuring that the necessary steps after their loss are as problem free as possible.
I look forward to working with stakeholders, current and future medical examiners to ensure that the service is able to deliver for patients and families.”
Jo Martin, College President, welcomed the news:
“The College is delighted to welcome the appointment of Dr Alan Fletcher as National Medical Examiner and we look forward to working with him.
We are firmly committed to the patient safety and public health benefits this programme will bring. The programme is one for which the College has campaigned over very many years, including strong leadership from a succession of past Presidents. We are pleased to see such a compassionate and knowledgeable leader taking up this post.”
The announcement follows the Gosport inquiry last year, which found that improvements could be made to the way the NHS scrutinises deaths so that lessons can be learnt sooner. Both the Gosport Inquiry and Shipman Inquiry recommended that all certificates for cause of death should be scrutinised by an independent doctor, known as a medical examiner. The College has long supported the implementation of a medical examiner system.
From April, hospitals in England and Wales will be asked to set up a medical examiner office to provide independent scrutiny for the deaths of their patients. The service will later be rolled out to cover all deaths, including those in the community.
Minister of State for Care Caroline Dinenage, said:
“This is another important step on the road to making the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world, delivering on commitments in the NHS Long Term Plan to improve patient safety and reduce harm.
Independent medical examiners will improve the way NHS investigations are carried out to provide bereaved families with the full and honest answers they deserve and enabling the NHS to continually improve.
I very much welcome Dr Fletcher’s appointment and I look forward to working closely with him in the future.”
Dr Fletcher will report directly to the NHS Director of Patient Safety, Dr Aidan Fowler. He will serve in this role on a part time basis alongside his roles as Medical Examiner for Sheffield and Consultant Emergency Physician at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.