Updated 7 January 2013 - the publication date of the consultation on the death certification reforms, including draft regulations, which was planned for autumn 2012 has been put back to early in the new year to complete work on the impact assessment.
Update 1 May 2012 - The Health and Social Care Act 2012, which received Royal Assent on 27 March includes provision for responsibility for the new medical examiner service to sit with local authorities instead of primary care trusts, which will cease to exist from April 2013 as part of the changes to the NHS architecture.
A key part of the response to the recommendations of the Shipman Inquiry was a programme of work to design, pilot and implement a rigorous and unified system of death certification for both burials and cremations in England and Wales. The proposed changes to death certification are intended to:
- improve the quality and accuracy of medical certificates of cause of death (MCCDs)
- increase transparency for bereaved families
- introduce a unified certification system applicable to all deaths that do not require investigation by a coroner (regardless of form of disposal)
- enable medical examiners to provide an independent and proportionate scrutiny of the cause(s) of death stated by doctors on MCCDs
- provide improved information on cause of death to strengthen local clinical governance and public health surveillance and to identify unusual patterns and trends.
The legislative framework for implementing the death certification reforms is in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (section 19-21). An amendment transferring responsibility for the appointment of medical examiners, and other related matters, from Primary Care Trusts to local authorities is included in the Health and Social Care Bill currently before Parliament.
A public consultation on secondary legislation will be launched early 2013.