Coroner reform is 'opportunity lost', say doctors leaders

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Coroner reform is 'opportunity lost', say doctors leaders

Government plans for coroner reform are inadequate and underfunded - and cannot be endorsed by doctors leaders, the BMA says.

Doctors claim proposals on reforming death certification and the coroner system in England and Wales do not go far enough and 'the opportunity of a lifetime to reform an outdated system set up in the 19th century has been lost'.

Ministers aim to ensure there are adequate inquiries into deaths and that the bereaved get all the answers they need. The bill proposes giving bereaved families proper legal status in the inquest system and establishing national standards with leadership through a new position of chief coroner.

But the BMA is warning the government that it could be perceived as 'tinkering with the system' rather than delivering a much-needed radical overhaul.

Doctors leaders have strong concerns. These include:

• Local coroners will continue to be appointed and paid by local authorities, which the BMA fears could result in quality variation. It wants to see a true national service
• There are no plans to increase the number of coronial support staff
• There is a lack of guidelines on autopsies

BMA forensic medicine committee chairman Dr George Fernie has told the DCA (Department for Constitutional Affairs) the association 'would not be able to endorse a partly reformed, underfunded system that was not fit for purpose'.

Doctors have expressed their extreme disappointment and concern to the DCA, which is conducting pre-legislative scrutiny on the draft Coroner Reform Bill.

Full text of story is available from the Press Office

Ends
Embargo: 00:01 hrs Friday, 15 September 2006

 
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