The Coroners (Amendment) Rules 2008 became law on 17 July 2008. The new rules are being introduced in response to views expressed by bereaved families that they would like something positive to come out of an inquest.

The rules replace the previous Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1984. The amended rule clarifies when a coroner may report the circumstances of a death to a person who the coroner believes will have power to take action to prevent the risk of deaths occurring in the future.

The new Rule 43A places a statutory duty on organisations receiving reports from coroners to respond within 56 days. Coroners must share the reports and the responses with all “interested persons” (which includes the families of the deceased) as well as the Lord Chancellor. This will ensure that families are aware of any action being taken.

The reports and responses will be centrally collated so that any trends can be identified and monitored and to ensure that lessons learned can be shared widely. NHS bodies will need to ensure that their responses to reports are prompt and accurate and they should be mindful that any response may become public. This raises the question whether NHS bodies will face claims of negligence if they fail to implement changes recommended in coroners’ reports, or proposed in their responses, and a further death occurs in similar circumstances.

The rules also insert a new Rule 57A, which requires the coroner to notify the appropriate Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) of any child death that is reported to them. The rule also allows coroners to share relevant information (eg, post mortem reports) with LSCBs. The purpose of this rule is to assist LSCBs in meeting their statutory obligations, such as their responsibility to conduct child death reviews.

Please click here for the full text of the statutory instrument .