New role set up to determine cause of death of hospital patients in East Lancashire

Seven experienced East Lancashire doctors are preparing to take on the challenging role of Medical Examiner when a new national system for determining cause of death comes into effect in East Lancashire in April.

By Dominic Collis
Monday, 24th February 2020, 1:55 pm
Updated Monday, 24th February 2020, 1:56 pm
The Royal Blackburn Hospital
The Royal Blackburn Hospital

From April 1st, medical examiners will replace the current system of scrutinising Medical Certificates for Cause of Death which has remained unchanged for 50 years.

The role of the medical examiner will initially be to review patient deaths which occur in the area’s five NHS hospitals: Royal Blackburn, Burnley General and Pendle, Clitheroe and Accrington Victoria community hospitals.

Medical Examiners are all trained in the legal and clinical elements of death certification and their work will focus on:

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• agreeing the proposed cause of death and the overall accuracy of the medical certificate cause of death

• discussing the cause of death with the next of kin and establish if they have any concerns with care that could have impacted/led to death

• acting as a medical advice resource for the local coroner.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has recruited six medical examiners: Dr Andrew Sloan (Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon, Lead Medical Examiner), Dr Emma Davies (Medicolegal Consultant), Dr Andrew Evans (Consultant Surgeon), Dr Paul Fourie (GP), Dr Nicholas Roberts (Consultant Physician and Geriatrician) and Dr Fiona Tyacke (GP).

Overseen by Regional Medical Examiners and an overall National Medical Examiner, local medical examiners report to NHS Improvement to ensure the role remains impartial and objective.

“We have recruited an excellent and dedicated group of senior doctors whose remit is to examine hospital deaths which do not come under the jurisdiction of the coroner,” said Miss Julie Iddon, ELHT Associate Medical Director for Quality and Safety who has overseen the establishment of the local Medical Examiner network.

“Introducing medical examiners is a vital step in the drive to improve patient safety in the NHS. In particular, medical examiners will offer a point of contact for bereaved families to raise concerns about the care provided prior to the death of a loved one.”

“Medical professionals have long campaigned for their implementation and there is eagerness to begin work.”

The introduction of a national network of independent medical examiners was a recommendation of the Shipman Enquiry and is part of the Government’s commitment to improve patient safety and provide support for bereaved families, as outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan.