Information for Bereaved Families & Friends
Medical examiners are part of a national network of specifically trained independent senior doctors (from any specialty). The team of a dozen Medical examiners includes local GPs and Hospital Doctors and is supported by four trained Medical examiner officers (MEO).
After the service completes it's roll-out over Summer & Autumn 2023: we will scrutinise all deaths across the local Calderdale & Kirklees area that do not fall under the coroner’s jurisdiction.
Our service is overseen by Dr Tim Jackson (Lead Medical Examiner), Mr Graham Cooper (Regional Medical Examiner) and Dr Alan Fletcher (National Medical Examiner).
The Medical Examiner is an independent senior doctor not involved in your relative’s / loved one’s care, who reviews the medical record to understand the circumstances around the cause of death.
In the majority of cases: once the cause of death has been discussed and agreed with the clinical team who cared for your relative, the MCCD (medical certificate of cause of death) can be issued. The Medical Examiner (ME) or Medical Examiner’s Officer (MEO) will contact you, or the designated family member, to explain the cause of death.
You will be asked if you have any comments or concerns about your relative’s care and will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. If the Medical Examiner is unable to answer your questions immediately, they will advise you regarding sources of additional support or information.
When the MCCD is issued, it will be scanned and emailed to the Register Office of Halifax, Huddersfield or Dewsbury (depending on where the death is due to be registered).
If you have any questions please call us. The Calderdale & Kirklees Medical Examiner's Office is staffed Monday to Friday (except public holidays) between 08:00 and 17:00. Direct dial: 01484-356-930 and 01484-356-931
In a minority of cases: deaths need to be referred to the West Yorshire HM Coroner's Court which is based in Bradford. If the coroner is involved, the clinicians will not be able to issue an MCCD unless the HM Coroner authorises it. More information and contact details are available here: LINK The Coroners Office and inquests | Bradford Council
Medical examiners and Medical examiner officers:
- Offer an opportunity for relatives to ask questions about the medical circumstances and cause of death and to raise any concerns they might have.
- Improve safeguards for the public by providing robust and independent scrutiny of the circumstances and cause of deaths by apparently natural causes. A medical examiner will scrutinise all medical certificates of cause of death prepared by the attending doctor.
- Ensure that the right deaths are referred to a coroner and confirm the medical cause of all deaths not investigated by the coroner. They will provide a statutory notification to a registrar to allow authorisation of burial or cremation (after April 2024).
- Improve the quality of certification by providing expert advice to the certifying doctor. This will be the doctor who cared for the patient during their last illness (who may be a GP, a hospice doctor or a hospital doctor), who has a duty to ensure that the death is properly certified or referred to the coroner.
Yes. You can be confident that the GP & hospital medical examiners and medical examiner officers will provide an independent view, as they will only review cases where they have not provided care for the deceased patient.
Evidence from the pilot schemes which started in 2008 has demonstrated a number of benefits:
- Improved accuracy of death certification. Medical examiners advised on the best wording to explain the cause of death accurately and with the detail needed.
- Helped avoid unnecessary distress for families by listening to concerns and providing reassurance to the next of kin that can result from unanswered questions about the cause of death. Bereavement support groups involved in the pilots were universally supportive and the medical examiner service was valued by families.
- Families felt reassured after consulting the medical examiner about the language used on the death certificate as they often found the medical terminology difficult to understand.
- Identified trends in unexpected causes of death. For example, medical examiners triggered investigations that identified problems with post-operative infections.
- Ensured that the right deaths were referred to a coroner for further investigation. When the certifying doctor was unsure of the need for coronial referral, a discussion with the medical examiner normally clarified the position.
- Close working relations between medical examiners and the local coroner’s office were established in all the pilots. Coroners welcomed the improved quality of medical information they received.
- Helped foster more openness in the NHS as health professionals who raised concerns felt supported knowing that they were protected by the authority and independence of the medical examiner.