April 25, 2024

Causes of death to be scrutinised by Medical Examiners

From 9 September 2024, it will become a requirement that all deaths in any health setting (including care homes) that are not referred to the Coroner in the first instance will be subject to medical examiner scrutiny.

Medical examiners are senior medical doctors that provide independent scrutiny of deaths in England and Wales. 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.

The move to a statutory system in September 2024 is to help strengthen safeguards and prevent criminal activity. Public protection and support for bereaved families are at the heart of the overhaul into how deaths are certified with cases such as those involving Harold Shipman and Lucy Letby highlighting the need for additional scrutiny.

Bereaved families will have the opportunity to raise questions or concerns with a medical examiner who was not involved in the care of the person who died which helps to ensure transparency.


The impact on health and social care providers

Medical examiners will have a right of access to records of the deceased and so care providers will be required to share records with medical examiners in a timely manner. Providers might want to consider providing staff with training so that they feel confident liaising with the medical examiner’s office.

It is also a good idea for providers to start considering how to establish processes to receive feedback from the medical examiner’s office in order to help them learn from deaths. From a CQC perspective, this will also help to demonstrate good governance.

Culture within an organisation is also important as that can influence factors in terms of learning lessons from deaths. Having an open and transparent culture where staff feel supported to raise issues and report concerns is key.

There will be further communication regarding the legislative changes from the Department of Health and Social Care between now and September 2024.

How can we help?

RWK Goodman is a full service law firm which supports health and social care providers in relation to a wide range of issues, including inquests.

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