The statutory rollout of a new system requiring GPs to agree death certificates with a medical examiner has been postponed until April next year, a health minister has said.
The system was meant to commence from this month, with the intention of medical examiners (MEs) providing independent scrutiny of all deaths in the community which are not taken to the coroner, but last month Pulse revealed exclusively that the rollout had been postponed indefinitely due to legal delays.
But, in a statement to Parliament yesterday, health minister Maria Caulfield confirmed the introduction will start from April 2024.
She said: ‘I wish to inform the House of the Government’s plan for introducing a statutory medical examiner system from April 2024.
‘The changes will put all of the medical examiner system’s obligations, duties and responsibilities on to a statutory footing and ensure they are recognised by law.
‘For example, it will be a legal requirement that medical examiners scrutinise all non-coronial deaths. This will help to deter criminal activity and poor practice, increase transparency and offer the bereaved an opportunity to raise concerns.’
Ms Caulfield said that the relevant provisions of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and the Health and Care Act 2022 will be commenced by the autumn.
‘We will also publish draft regulations by autumn 2023, and will lay the regulations when parliamentary time allows,’ she added.
‘We are working closely across Government to ensure that from both a legislative and operational perspective we are supporting the professions involved so that they are prepared for the full introduction of the statutory system from April 2024.’
Some GPs had branded the implementation of the new medical examiner process a ‘car crash’. Implementation has so far been determined locally and some GP practices have been using the system for many months already as a pilot scheme.
While briefing GPs on the recently-imposed new GP contract, the BMA’s GP Committee executive told GPs that it did not stipulate that GPs must agree death certificates with a medical examiner.