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GPs to be questioned about their certification of deaths

GPs in Scotland will be interviewed about deaths they have certified as part of a new system to review and improve the quality and accuracy of records of deaths.

The national review system launched today will randomly select 6,000 deaths a year – roughly 10% of the 55,000 that occur in Scotland annually – for a ‘Level 1’ review, which involve GPs having their death certificates reviewed by a doctor trained in the area, who will also interview the GP.

A smaller group will also be selected for Level 2 review where the certifying GP will be interviewed by the trained doctor, who will also review the relevant medical records for the deceased.

These will not include any death that is sudden, suspicious, accidental or unexplained, however.

The scheme aims to provide better quality information about causes of death so that health services can be better prepared for the future, and ensure that the processes around death certification are robust and have appropriate safeguards in place.

There is also provision for relatives of the deceased to request an ‘Interested Person Review’ where they have cause to question the information in the death certificate.

Dr George Fernie a senior medical reviewer for Healthcare Improvement Scotland, who run the scheme, said: ‘These reviews will provide NHS Scotland with more accurate information which will help healthcare providers to plan services in the most effective way.

‘Our reviews will also help the bereaved by providing greater assurance that the cause of death of their loved one has been accurately recorded.’

Where a problem is identified with the Medical Certificates of Cause of Death (MCCD), the Health Care Improvement Scotland website states: ‘The medical reviewer will discuss any problems with the certifying doctor… In a few cases the certifying doctor may need to complete a new MCCD. In these cases, the doctor will send the new MCCD directly to the registrar to register the death.’

It adds: ‘Reviews are not designed to look at the care provided[… anyone with] concerns about the care provided you should contact the relevant NHS board or your GP.’


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