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Birmingham and Solihull Coroner’s Service Annual Report 2019

Published: Monday, 3rd February 2020

Following the release of MP Shabana Mahmood’s report A New Model for Coroner and Bereavement Services, the Birmingham and Solihull Coroner’s Service is releasing its Annual Report for 2019.

Coroners are independent judicial office holders appointed by the Lord Chancellor on the recommendation of the Chief Coroner for England and Wales. The Coroner’s Service is funded by the local authority. The service is distinct from Bereavement Services.

All coronial areas are scrutinised by the Chief Coroner for England and Wales and are required to submit annually their statistics to the Ministry of Justice. The results are publicly available.

The service is one of the largest and most complex coronial areas in England and Wales. Despite a number of issues which are putting the service under great pressure, all who work for the service are very proud of the fact that its statistics evidence that it is one of the most efficient and best performing coronial areas in England and Wales. In particular, its time to release of body statistics are amongst the top 10 performing coronial areas. Typically, where there is a delay in releasing a body in a timely fashion it will be due to the fact that the Police, who are independent of the service, are investigating whether a crime has been committed.

The Senior Coroner, the two Area Coroners, and the Senior Coroner’s Investigator are held in high regard and have on multiple occasions been invited to contribute to the drafting of Chief Coroner’s Guidance for all coroners, national Coroner training programmes, and have lectured at national Coroner’s and Coroner’s Officers training events.

The ethos is “putting the family at the heart of the process”. The team was proud when a recent independent study concluded that staff “all have a real empathy for the bereaved and strive to provide a high-quality service”.

The team has demonstrably improved the quality of service and safety of the citizens of Birmingham and Solihull, including:

1. The Senior Coroner was one of the earliest champions of Local Authority funded non-invasive post-mortems, principally to alleviate the concerns of faith communities. This contributed to the current CTPM trial.

2. The service was one of the first coronial areas to prioritise deaths amongst faith communities, this was prior to the AYBS legal decision.

3. The service introduced regular use of a second court to avoid delays in inquest hearings.

4. In 2019 the service contributed to training of 200 GPs, junior hospital Drs, WMP murder squads, clinicians involved in sudden unexpected deaths in infants, the emergency services in relation to disaster victim identification, NHS Trust medical examiners, trainee pathologists, and organ donation clinicians.

5. In 2019 the service contributed to a number of projects including:

  • Changing the process for identifying that life is extinct freeing up valuable police officer and paramedic time;
  • Research aiming to reduce infant and child deaths;
  • Introduction of bereavement nurses;
  • Establishing a multi-disciplinary panel to obtaining greater accuracy from digital post-mortems;
  • Supporting the introduction of a registration service in hospitals to facilitate timely release of bodies;
  • Research to improve survival rates from knife crime.

6. The service has contributed to a number of successful organ donations and was recently praised for its part in facilitating lifesaving organ donation for 5 recipients from a single donor.

7. In 2019, the Coroner issued a number of Prevention of Future Deaths Reports leading to crucial changes to prevent future deaths, these include:

  • Birmingham Prison revising its process for assessing prisoners with mental health issues;
  • New search and security policies and equipment to prevent drugs from entering Birmingham prison and secure mental health hospitals;
  • A national discussion around the safety of SMART motorways;
  • Medical services better collaborating with care homes to ensure they have reliable information about the care needs of elderly residents;
  • A new system for paramedics to avoid patients misunderstand advice they need to attend hospital;
  • A new mental health crisis house opening in Spring 2020, a new urgent psychiatric care centre opening in Autumn 2020, various crisis cafes opening across the city, and greater funding for psychiatric beds and increasing the number of AMPHs;
  • Changes to how the Ministry of Justice plan training exercises to avoid soldiers dying from heat related illness.

Whilst it is true to say that the service is hampered by its current premises and is keen to continue the ongoing work with Birmingham City Council to relocate and improve the Court and Mortuary buildings. However, this does not stop the team from doing its upmost to provide the best possible service which combines protecting the dignity of the deceased, respects the wishes of the bereaved, upholds the legal principles that govern Coroners’ investigations and assists agencies carrying out criminal and other investigations.

Going forward the service will continue to seek the necessary support from the local authority and third parties to ensure the service remains fit for purpose.

Please see the full report here: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/downloads/file/15070/birmingham_and_solihull_coroners_annual_report_2019

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