Introduction of Medical Examiners and Reforms to Death Certification in England and Wales: Policy and Draft Regulations

Closed 15 Jun 2016

Opened 10 Mar 2016


The changes proposed in this consultation will introduce a death certification process involving a unified system of scrutiny by independent medical examiners of all deaths that do not need to be investigated by a coroner.  The proposals form part of the action programme in response to recommendations of the Shipman Inquiry.  The aims of the reforms are to strengthen safeguards for the public, make the process simpler and more transparent for the bereaved.

This document visualises how the new medical examiner system might work in practice and includes the draft regulations required for putting in place a new framework for death certification in England and Wales, involving a doctor proposing cause of death and an independent medical examiner scrutinising and confirming the certification in order for a death to be registered.

This consultation builds on Consultation on Improving the Process of Death Certification (Department of Health, July 2007).  The responses to that document and the death certification pilots have helped to shape the medical examiner system.  The Coroners and Justice Act 2009, sets out the legal basis for the new system. 

More recent inquiries into Mid Staffordshire and Morecambe Bay have renewed calls for the introduction of the medical examiner system.

As part of this consultation the Ministry of Justice is consulting on introducing a statutory duty on registered medical practitioners to report deaths in prescribed circumstances to the coroner for investigation.  This section of the consultation seeks views about making changes to cremation regulations when the current role of the medical referee who authorises cremations at a crematorium will be abolished, when medical examiners are introduced.

Why We Are Consulting

This consultation seeks views about certain aspects of the medical examiner system and accompanying draft regulations.  The consultation paper also seeks views about making changes to cremation regulations when the current role of the medical referee who authorises cremations at a crematorium will be abolished, when medical examiners are introduced. 

Most of the issues covered in the consultation document apply to both England and Wales.  However, in two areas - appointing medical examiners and the funding mechanisms for the medical examiner service - England and Wales can make their own arrangements.  This consultation includes draft regulations on appointments and fees for England only.   

The Welsh Government will consult separately on the arrangements for appointing and funding medical examiners in Wales, after the forthcoming National Assembly for Wales elections.

Your participation will help us to ensure that new regulations, intended to come into force in April 2018 and any associated guidance will be implemented successfully.

The consultation runs until 15th June 2016.  Participants are encouraged to read the related documents before responding.  The consultation and supporting documents can be found at

Enquiries or responses to the consultation that have not been completed using the online questionnaire should be sent by email to

What Happens Next

We hope and expect that we will receive a lot of responses to this consultation, so we do not intend to write back to everyone who contacts us.  However, we will read and consider all responses and, will publish our final response and explain how comments and views influenced the final decisions around the reforms to the death certification process.


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