Announcement from DHSC About Medical Examiner System

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published draft regulations under section 19 (Medical Examiners), section 20 (Medical Certificate of Cause of Death) and section 21 (National Medical Examiner) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. A plain language document, explaining the Government’s death certification reforms, can be found here.

The draft regulations and plain language document published on 14th December will help medical practitioners, registrars, coroners and the public understand how the new legal requirements will work and will help ensure frontline services are ready.

The reforms will come into force from April 2024 and will affect all healthcare providers, and medical practitioners who may be the attending practitioner when a person dies. They 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.

Once the death certification reforms come into force, all deaths in England and Wales will be independently reviewed, without exception, either by a medical examiner or a coroner.

The Royal College of Pathologists will be holding an information event on 17 January 2024.  Details are available online at: Death Certification Reforms Legislation – implications for the Medical Examiner system (rcpath.org)

What does this mean for burial and cremation? 

Pages 6-7 of the plain language document set out the impact of these changes for those working in burials and cremation.

Next steps 

Comments on DHSC’s draft regulations can be sent directly to DHSC at deathcertification@dhsc.gov.uk for England and qualityandnursing@gov.wales for Wales. Please note that all comments received will be considered but will not receive an individual response.

To support overall understanding of the reforms and what they will mean for medical practitioners and others, the National Medical Examiner has released a podcast explaining the new process, available online here.  .

MOJ are also, separately, working to amend the guidance listed below to reflect the changes set out in the plain language document. These will be available in advance of the statutory ME scheme coming into effect from April.

·         Guidance for crematorium authorities and crematorium managers will reflect the changes to the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008;

·         Guidance for registered medical practitioners will reflect the changes to the Notification of Deaths Regulations 2019;

·         Guidance for applicants will reflect the changes to the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008;

·         Guidance for crematorium medical referees will reflect the changes to the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008;

·         Guidance for funeral directors will reflect the changes to the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008.

MoJ will continue to work closely with burial, cremation and funeral sector stakeholders in the run up to April 2024 and we will be providing further updates in due course.