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Coroners and Justice Act 2009

Section 19: Medical examiners

148.This section relates to the appointment of, and functions to be carried out by, medical examiners. It also enables regulations to be made by the Secretary of State for Health (in relation to England) and the relevant Welsh Ministers (in relation to Wales) about the appointment, payment and training of, and functions to be carried out by, medical examiners.

149.Subsection (1) requires Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England and Local Health Boards (LHBs) in Wales to appoint medical examiners to discharge the functions given to them by this Chapter.

150.Subsection (2)(a) specifies that PCTs and LHBs must appoint enough medical examiners and make available enough funds and other resources (including medical examiners’ officers) to enable the medical examiners to discharge their functions in the area served by the PCT or LHB.

151.Under subsection (2)(b), medical examiners will be monitored by their PCT or LHB as to whether or not they meet expected standards or levels of performance in carrying out their work as medical examiners. This monitoring needs to be considered alongside the requirement in subsection (5) for PCTs and LHBs to take no role in relation to the way that medical examiners exercise their professional judgment as medical practitioners.

152.Subsection (3) specifies, subject to regulations under subsection (4)(f), that medical examiners must, at the time of appointment, be fully registered medical practitioners for the previous five years and be practising at the time of appointment or have practiced within the previous five years.

153.Regulations made under subsection (4)(a) will specify terms of appointment for medical examiners and allow for the termination of their appointment. Whilst medical examiners will, for the most part, confirm or establish the cause of death for deaths that have occurred in the area served by the PCT or LHB by whom they have been appointed, they may be asked to scrutinise deaths in other areas.

154.Regulations made under subsection (4)(b) will specify what payments may be made to medical examiners by way of remuneration, expenses, fees, compensation for termination of appointment, pensions, allowances or gratuities. Such payments would be in line with arrangements applying in the specific area in respect of remuneration and those applying nationally in respect of other similar payments.

155.Regulations made under subsection (4)(c) will specify the training that medical examiners must have successfully completed prior to their appointment and the training that they need to undertake during the term of their appointment.

156.Regulations made under subsection (4)(d) will make provision about the procedure to be followed by medical examiners in carrying out their functions with a view to ensuring that they are able to carry out independent scrutiny of medical certificates of cause of death (MCCDs) and do so in a way that is robust, proportionate, and consistent. The regulations may also provide that, in order to help ensure their professional independence, medical examiners will not be allowed to confirm or establish the cause of death of any person to whom they are related or with whom they have had any fiduciary relationship; and that they will not be allowed to scrutinise MCCDs prepared by any doctor with whom they have a close working or professional relationship or with whom they have an established fiduciary relationship (see also section 20).

157.Regulations made under subsection (4)(e) may provide for the functions of medical examiners to be extended or changed to support future developments of the service.

158.Regulations made under subsection (4)(f) may provide for the functions of medical examiners to be carried out by persons not meeting the criteria in subsection (3) during a period of emergency certified by the Secretary of State in accordance with subsection (7). (See also section 20(4) for a related provision allowing the MCCD to be given during a period of emergency by a registered medical practitioner who has not attended the deceased before his or her death and is therefore not the “attending practitioner”.)

159.Subsection (5) specifies that PCTs and LHBs must allow medical examiners to exercise their own professional judgement as medical practitioners in deciding, for example, whether to confirm individual causes of death or refer them to a senior coroner. This provision needs to be read together with the obligation on PCTs and LHBs to monitor medical examiners in subsection (2) and the procedures to be prescribed by regulations under subsection (4)(d).

160.Subsections (8) and (9) make provision concerning periods of emergency certified by the Secretary of State under subsection (7).

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