Notification of Deaths Regulations 2019 – A unified approach
The new Notification of Death Regulations 2019/1112 came into force on 1 October 2019. These intend to harmonise the approach to reporting deaths to Coroners across England and Wales, where previously local arrangements had varied.
The Regulations create a new statutory duty on doctors to report deaths occurring in specific circumstances to the relevant Senior Coroner and provide clear guidance on when a report should be made.
When to Report
The Regulations clarify when a notification of death must be made to the relevant Senior Coroner. Many doctors will already be notifying deaths to the Coroner in the circumstances below, but these regulations formalise the practice. Doctors are now obliged to report deaths in circumstances where they suspect the death was due to:
- Poisoning (including by an otherwise benign substance)
- Exposure to a toxic substance
- Use of a medicinal product, controlled drug or psychoactive substance
- Violence, trauma, injury or self-harm
- Neglect, including self-neglect
- The person was undergoing treatment or a medical procedure
- An injury or disease attributable to employment; or
- The death was unnatural not in the circumstances listed above
- The cause of death is unknown
- The deceased died while in custody or state detention
- There is a reasonable belief that there is no attending medical practitioner required to sign a certificate of cause of death
- There was no medical practitioner available within a reasonable time of a person’s death to sign the cause of death certificate
- The deceased’s identity is unknown
When and how the report should be made
The report should be made as soon as practicable after the duty to report arises. The report must be in writing unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying doing so orally (then confirmed in writing as soon as reasonably practicable). This may be a significant departure from doctor’s and indeed a Coroner’s current practices.
As well as the requirement to provide basic information about a deceased person there is an added requirement to provide the name of any consultant medical practitioner who attended the deceased within 14 days preceding their death and any other information that the reporting doctor considers relevant. These two requirements could lead to added scrutiny of the role of doctors involved in a patient’s care in the lead up to a person’s death.
The guidance to medical practitioners is available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/831100/notification-deaths-regulations-2019-guidance.pdf
This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.