HOSPITAL bosses in Worcestershire expect an increase in the number of inquests held into patient deaths as part of a drive to improve standards of death certification.
The Department of Health has written to coroners about reforms expected to take place between January and April 2014.
Mark Wake, chief medical officer for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, discussed the plans at a meeting of the trust board in Kidderminster.
He said: “These reforms are expected to increase the scrutiny and improve the quality of death certification.
“It is expected that there will be an increase number of inquests held. Medical examiners will be appointed by local authorities and these will be located in larger acute hospitals or cover a number of smaller acute, specialist or community hospitals.
“Doctors will have new statutory duties and there is expected to be some new rules governing the process of certification.”
Mr Wake said feedback to patients, carers and families should improve.
Worcestershire coroner Geraint Williams said it was “difficult to say with certainty” whether the changes would mean an increase in his case load.
Last year the coroner had 2,500 deaths reported in Worcestershire, of which inquests were held into 400.
Mr Williams said: “However, if the work of one doctor (reporting a death) is to be scrutinised and dealt with, in the first instance, by another (the medical examiner) rather than by my officers (as happens now), then one might expect a diminution in the numbers that come through to me (cases that are obviously natural causes, for example).
“But, it is clear from the pilots that an increased number of cases that the first doctor felt were natural were rejected by the medical examiner – on the basis that the first doctor was either wrong in the diagnosis of the cause of death and/or that there was something that required deeper investigation – a formal inquest.
“The figures suggest that there will be more inquests held than at present and since there is substantially more work involved in investigating and hearing an inquest case than there is in dealing with a case of “natural causes” then, yes there will be more work for me to do.”