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Coroners: Mesothelioma

Volume 475: debated on Monday 28 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what guidance is issued on the procedure to be followed in coroners’ inquiries following a death from mesothelioma. (201448)

In February this year, the Coroners’ Society circulated best practice suggestions on mesothelioma investigations in England and Wales to all coroners and made the suggestions available on its website. The best practice suggestions were produced by the British Lung Foundation with the support of the Coroners’ Society and my Department.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will bring forward legislative proposals to require (a) a specific authority to train police staff in areas where inquiries are conducted by police staff following a death from mesothelioma and (b) registered medical practitioners to compile medical evidence prior to a death from mesothelioma which can later be used in a coroners’ inquiry. (201456)

The Government’s intention are to introduce a Coroners Bill when parliamentary time allows. One of the key aims of the Bill is to deliver an improved service for all bereaved people, including those bereaved as a result of mesothelioma. The Coroners Bill will establish the post of chief coroner who will be responsible, among other things, for establishing national standards and providing guidance and training to coroners and their staff. The chief coroner will not have direct authority over police officer training or the practices of medical practitioners but he or she will work closely with local police authorities to promote best practice and will have authority to intervene if investigations are not conducted in accordance with agreed guidance. Under a reformed system, the new national medical adviser to the chief coroner will provide an additional valuable resource for bringing guidance to the attention of those professionals in the health service who interact with people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma.