Medical examiner system rollout

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Medical examiners' offices should be in contact with practices and will be given access to patient records.

Practices should have been contacted by their local medical examiner’s office ahead of the system’s statutory implementation in April 2023. If your practice is not already in contact with your local office you should contact them, details can be found in our guidance which also contains more information about the new system and practices legal obligations under it. 

We have heard some concerns from practices about the fact medical examiners will have access to patient records, however this is an area where legislation gives medical examiners a right to access. 

Medical examiners will have a statutory right of access to the records for the purposes of their role. The current position is that whilst the legislation is updated, to ensure information governance and data protection requirements are fulfilled, for the period before the statutory system commences, NHS England submitted an application under Regulation 5 of the Health Service (Control of Patient Information) Regulations 2002 (‘section 251 support’) to process confidential information without consent. 

The approved application can be found on the Health Research Authority (HRA)’s website (ref: 21/CAG/0032). The HRA’s Confidentiality Approval Group approval covers the sharing of medical records of deceased patients or the equivalent access to view those records with both medical examiners and medical examiner officers. It is expected that medical examiners will be added to the list of persons with a right of access to patient records in the Access to Health Records Act (1990) when the Medical Examiner System moves onto a statutory footing in April 2023.