Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services
In November 2016, I issued a consultation paper setting out the proposed arrangements for introducing the role of Medical Examiners in Wales. This followed on from the UK Government’s overarching consultation, earlier that year, on the proposed reforms to death certification in England and Wales and the introduction of this new role to scrutinise all deaths not referred to a Coroner, ensuring that all deaths in England and Wales are independently scrutinised.
I welcome these proposed changes as the death certification system in the UK has remained unchanged for over 60 years and various reports such as the Third Report of the Shipman Inquiry published in 2003 and the Francis Inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust made recommendations for the independent scrutiny of deaths and the need to involve the families of the bereaved.
Although most of the area of death certification is not devolved to the Welsh Government, Welsh Ministers will be responsible for the practical implementation of the proposed arrangements in Wales. I sought views on the two distinct sets of regulations where Welsh Ministers have powers. These relate to the appointment of Medical Examiners and the fees to be charged for the medical examiner service.
I am mindful it is over 18 months since these consultations took place. During this time, the Department of Health and Social Care in England has reconsidered the response to its own consultation; along with feedback from the Medical Examiner pilot sites and those Trusts that have adopted a Medical Examiner type approach to support their work in reviewing deaths. This has resulted in revised plans in the way Medical Examiners will be introduced which has necessitated the delay in publishing our consultation response until today. I would like to thank the individuals and organisations who responded to the consultation for their views and suggestions. This report provides a summary of the main themes and views that emerged during the consultation in Wales.
This follows the recent publication of the UK Government’s response to its consultation. In summary, the UK Government’s response sets out an approach to introduce a non-statutory medical examiner system where medical examiners are appointed within the NHS without the introduction of any new fee at this time. The UK Government proposes to amend the Coroner and Justice Act 2009, when opportunity arises to put the medical examiner system on a statutory footing.
Section 18 of the Coroners and Justice Act regulations will be commenced, requiring medical practitioners to report deaths to the coroner for which the coroner has a duty to investigate, together with Section 21 to enable the appointment of a National Medical Examiner for England and Wales.
The report I am publishing today should therefore be read in conjunction with this document below with the Welsh Government’s report for ease of reference:
Death certification reforms on GOV.UK
In Wales, the new arrangements will be introduced in tandem with England, beginning in April 2019 and an Implementation Board will shortly be established.