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Mental health law briefing 227 – Hospital deaths to be reviewed by a second doctor

On 17 March 2016 Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, announced that all deaths in hospital will be reviewed by a second doctor from a different department in the hospital. This will be a “second look” to see if there are any concerns regarding the death. It is not intended to be a detailed investigation.

The new regime is due to apply from 2018. There are approximately 250,000 deaths in hospital each year. In some cases there may be concerns about how the death arose. The doctors can raise those concerns with the relevant NHS Trust or the Care Quality Commission.

The proposals for this regime were first made by Dame Janet Smith following the Shipman Inquiry in 2005. The Francis Report echoed similar comments.

The proposals currently seem only to relate to NHS hospitals. There does not seem to be a proposal to extend this to the independent sector, although experience suggests that steps of this sort taken in the NHS are often subsequently applied to the independent sector (usually through the CQC regulatory regime).

The scheme also appears to apply only to patients who die in hospital. No doubt further detail will be available in due course but it may not apply to community patients including, it would seem, those on section 17 leave or a community treatment order nor presumably (unless the detailed scheme is more widely drawn) will it apply to NHS units that are not hospitals.

If you would like any more information or guidance about these matters, please contact:

Andrew Parsons

T. 020 7227 6750


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.