Hospital Deaths

Northern Ireland written question – answered am ar 18 Tachwedd 2004.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mr John Hume Mr John Hume Social Democratic and Labour Party, Foyle

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the procedures are for (a) notification and (b) investigation of deaths in hospital which may have resulted from medical treatment; and at what stage the chief medical officer should be informed.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

All deaths that are not due to natural disease must be referred to the coroner. The coroner will investigate all such deaths, which will include circumstances such as:

sudden or unexpected deaths; deaths where the cause of death is unknown or a doctor is unable to issue a medical certificate stating the cause of death (death certificate); all unnatural deaths (including accidents, suspected suicide or suspicious deaths); deaths thought to be due to negligence; deaths occurring during surgery or anaesthesia; and deaths from any cause other than natural disease.

The coroner will decide on the need for a post mortem examination and subsequently if an inquest is required. The coroner's investigation is supported by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

A Safety in Health and Social Care Steering Group was established by my Department following the publication of the consultation document entitled "Best Practice, Best Care" in April 2001. In July it issued interim guidance (HSS (PPM) 06/04) to the HPSS and special agencies on the reporting and management of serious adverse incidents. This includes a requirement for all HPSS organisations and special agencies to have nominated a senior manager at board level who will have overall responsibility for the reporting and management of serious adverse incidents within the organisation. In addition, if the senior manager considers that the incident is likely to:

be serious enough to warrant regional action to improve safety or care within the broader HPSS; be of public concern; or require an independent review, then he/she is required to provide the Department with a brief report within 72 hours of the incident being discovered. These reports are shared with the chief medical officer and other professional and administrative staff as appropriate.

Furthermore, my Department has also established a multi-agency group comprising departmental officials and representatives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and the coroner service to develop a memorandum of understanding for the investigation of death and serious incidents in hospitals. This will take account of a recent memorandum of understanding issued for consultation in England and Wales: "Investigating patient safety incidents (unexpected death or serious untoward harm): a protocol for liaison and effective communications between the NHS, Association of Chief Police Officers and HSE".

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