Last week in the House of Lords the Government was pressed to confirm whether the introduction of medical examiners was still to go ahead as planned. The Government responded with a commitment for the system to be introduced no later than April 2019.
There have been calls for an independent regulatory review of the death certificate since the tragedies of the Shipman inquiry unfolded. This was further endorsed after the Mid Staffordshire inquiry and Morecambe Bay investigation. Accordingly, the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 made provision for the introduction of an independent ‘medical examiner’.
In March 2016, the Secretary of State announced a consultation on medical examiners and other death certification reforms prior to the planned implementation in England and Wales in 2018. However, in the House of Lords on 18 October 2017 Lord O’Shaughnessy explained that we would have to wait until April 2019 before we see medical examiners rolled out across the UK, starting with secondary care and then moving out into primary and community care. It was however promised that the Government’s response to the consultation would be published shortly.
As yet it is not clear what funding will be received for the role. Lord O’Shaughnessy acknowledged the greater workload but said that pilot schemes had shown an ability to carry out the role ‘within existing staff loads’.