Doctors across England and Wales are required to inform their local medical examiners’ office of all deaths they record. These examiners, who then scrutinise and confirm the recorded cause of death, were introduced as part of reforms that came in light of the Harold Shipman case, which were designed to provide more safeguards and greater transparency in the death-reporting system.
Currently, doctors must inform examiners of newly recorded deaths via phone, email, or in person. The examiner than has five days to complete a process that is based on paper and the Microsoft Access database tool.
The Department of Health and Social Care wants to develop a digital system that allows notifications to be sent and received by doctors and examiners. The platform must also be able “to capture an interaction as a coded transaction with a unique reference and, also, to store and transfer information” – including to other government departments, with whose systems the death-reporting platform must be interoperable.
The DHSC has issued a contract notice via the Digital Marketplace seeking a supplier to complete the alpha and beta stages of the project over a timeframe of up to seven months. Bids are open until 9 August, with work due to start on 19 September.
Up to five suppliers will be evaluated, and the winning bidder will be expected to provide a full “multi-disciplinary team”. This team – and the project as a whole – will be managed by “a full-time member of the DHSC Medical Examiner Programme team”.
The project will be based in Leeds, and pilot sites are being run in Sheffield and Gloucestershire. Work will also take place remotely.
“The discovery phase revealed that to meet the needs of NHS-based service users, the introduction of medical examiners and all accompanying processes must be fit for purpose digitally,” the contract notice said. “The processes of a medical examiner’s office, notably, the scrutiny of reasons given as the cause of death, require completion within a strict timeframe, avoiding delays to the registration of a death.”
It added: “This service will be used within the NHS by trained staff and will not have any public facing functions, however, a medical examiner system needs to be able to record any concerns that may be raised by the bereaved.”