21 November, 2019
Following recommendations made by Dame Janet Smith, Chair of the Shipman Inquiry, new regulations have finally been introduced to ensure greater consistency in the reporting of deaths by medical practitioners in England and Wales. The Regulations came into force on 1st October 2019 with immediate effect. The regulations impose a duty on medical practitioners to report deaths in certain prescribed circumstances to the senior coroner. Prior to the introduction of the regulations, the reporting of deaths varied significantly across the country.
A copy of the Notification of Deaths Regulations 2019 can be found here.
As set out in paragraph 3(1) of the regulations, medical practitioners must provide notification of a death to the relevant senior coroner when he/she suspects that the death was due to:
In addition, the Regulations specify that a death must be notified to the coroner where:
The Ministry of Justice has also published a guidance document to help registered medical practitioners understand their duties under the new regulations.
A registered medical practitioner must notify a relevant senior coroner of a person's death "as soon as is reasonably practicable" after the duty arises. Whilst the regulations do not prescribe a specific time limit, this should be prioritised and if the death is suspicious, the police should be informed.
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the registered medical practitioner must notify the senior coroner in writing and provide as much of the following information as is known:
Even if a medical practitioner is aware that someone other than a medical practitioner has reported the death to the coroner, they must still make a notification under the Regulations.
Medical practitioners are now bound by a legal duty to report deaths to the senior coroner in certain prescribed circumstances, and as a result we should see less regional variation. As of 1st October 2019, any previous local guidance should be disregarded and medical practitioners should act only in accordance with the new regulations. Those who fail to notify a relevant death could face disciplinary action or if the failure to report a death was intentional, police involvement.
Our highly experienced and specialist inquest team can provide advice and guidance on the new regulations and any other matters relating to coroner investigations and inquests.
Our highly experienced and specialist Inquest team can provide advice and guidance on the Inquest process and any associated matters. For further advice contact Ridwaan Omar via email or phone on 01254 222457 or Lucy Harris via email or phone on 01254 222443.
Source - Chief Coroner Guidance