Who are medical examiners and medical examiner officers, and what do they do? Who are medical examiners and medical examiner officers, and what do they do?
Medical examiners are senior NHS doctors who, after completing specialist training work part time in this role. Their job is to give an independent view on causes of death and the care provided.
Medical examiners and their staff (usually called medical examiner officers) offer families and carers of the person who died an opportunity to ask questions or raise concerns about the causes of death, or about the care the person received before their death. This will usually be through a telephone call. They can explain what medical language means, and make it easier to understand what happened. Medical examiners also look at relevant medical records, and discuss the causes of death with the doctor who is completing the official form (known as the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death).
You can be confident medical examiners and medical examiner officers will provide an independent view. They will never look into the causes of death of a person they provided care for.
For information about the medical examiner system, please refer to http://www.england.nhs.uk/establishing-medical-examiner-system-nhs/
Some deaths are notified to a coroner, who may decide to carry out their own independent investigation. This link explains more about coroners and the types of deaths they investigate. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/notification-of-deaths-regulations-2019-guidance
You can also request information in other formats by emailing the Ministry of Justice at firstname.lastname@example.org. The medical examiner may sometimes give the coroner medical advice in these cases, but coroners lead these investigations.
Why am I being asked if I have any concerns?
You are being asked if you would like to have a conversation with an independent, specially trained person – the medical examiner or a medical examiner officer – about anything that may be worrying you about how the person who died was cared for. You may simply want to better understand why the person died, including by having medical terminology explained, or you may want to raise something about the care which did not feel right or ideal. This is your opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.
Medical examiners and medical examiner officers will discuss your feedback, questions and concerns. If they consider any issues with care need further investigation, they will refer these to someone who can do this work. As well as answering your questions, talking to a medical examiner helps the NHS provide better care for other patients and carers in future; for example, by identifying ways in which patient and family care could be improved.
What if I have not spoken with a Medical Examiner?
If you have not spoken with a Medical Examiner/Medical Examiner Officer/Coroner’s Officer (From the 1st of April 2023) you will not be able to register the death.
What questions will I be asked?
The medical examiner or medical examiner officer will explain what is written on the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death and why, and check if you have any questions or concerns. They will also discuss the medical examiner’s review and ask if you have any concerns or questions about the care the person received before their death. This is the best time for you to ask any questions and raise anything that concerns you.
What will happen if something was not right?
The medical examiner and medical examiner officer are here to listen to your concerns and answer your questions and, if necessary, can advise as to who can investigate further. Medical examiners will not investigate further themselves, as they must complete their work in the time before the death has to be registered by law.
Will funeral plans or release of the body take longer?
Medical examiners make every effort to avoid any delays and work with families and carers of the person who died to meet the legal requirements for registering deaths. Medical examiners and medical examiner officers will try to be flexible, for example where relatives would like the body to be released quickly.
What can I do if I have questions or concerns about the medical examiner process?
If you are not satisfied with the medical examiner’s advice, please first discuss this with staff in the medical examiner’s office, and if you are still not satisfied they will signpost you to other agencies who can help.