Health CommitteeSupplementary written evidence from the Department of Health (FRA 04B)

Death Certification Reforms

When I appeared before the Committee on 23 April I promised to write to you with more information about our timetable for reforms to the death certification system, and about our views on the relevant recommendations that Robert Francis made. I apologise for not being able to give you an appropriately detailed reply at the hearing itself.

The first thing I want to stress is the Government’s continuing commitment to implementing these reforms successfully. The potential benefits are, I think, clear—both for the recently bereaved and for the health and care system as a whole. The interest that Robert Francis has shown in the programme reconfirms its significance.

On timing, I have now agreed with the Local Government Association and other interested parties that we should aim for the new system to go live in October 2014. I realise that this represents a delay, which I regret. I know it may also disappoint the Committee. Nevertheless implementation is a major task, technically and administratively complex, and involving a number of different agencies. Our partners in delivery are unanimous in accepting that postponement until October is preferable to hurrying for an earlier date and thereby risking the system’s stability. We expect to run the public consultation exercise this summer, and to lay the supporting secondary legislation in Parliament early in 2014.

Robert Francis made a number of constructive recommendations for the programme. Our response to them will be overwhelmingly positive, although there are one or two points that we need to discuss further with him and consider in more depth—for example, his proposal for the independence of medical examiners from their local NHS. Our position on the recommendations will be reflected in full in the consultation document.

I hope this answers the Committee’s questions and reassures you. I would be happy to write again later this year with more information about progress if the Committee would find that helpful, and of course I would also be happy to discuss the issues further with you.

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Health

3 June 2013

Prepared 17th September 2013