State Pathologist's Department "Improvements in Service essential"

The quality of post mortem examinations provided by the State Pathologist’s Department in Northern Ireland was found to be of the highest standard.  However concerns surrounding management and procedures of the department have been raised in the latest report published today by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland. 

The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice, Kit Chivers commenting on the findings of the inspection of State Pathology said: “How loved ones are treated after they die and preserving the custom of having burials within three days are tremendously important to all of us.
“The centralisation of all post mortem examinations to Belfast and the provision of a 24 hour, 365 days per year on-call service means that pathologists can now undertake more than 1500 examinations per year normally within 1-2 days of death.  
“The quality of the information provided to coroners on deciding cause of death and to police in investigating crime was of the highest standard.  However we found that delays in submitting full post mortem reports to coroners were sometimes impacting adversely on the timing of inquests and the issuing of death certificates.”
The key recommendations of the report are that:

• an additional pathologist is recruited to fill an outstanding vacancy;

• significant changes are made to internal working practices;

• more effective partnership is developed with the Coroners Service. 

The Inspectors also recommended that improved partnerships with the Northern Ireland Health Service and the State Pathology Department in Dublin could further enhance the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the service here.  It was further recommended that consideration be given to routine post mortems and those concerning non suspicious deaths be undertaken by hospital pathologists. 
 “I welcome the commitment already given by the State Pathologist’s Department and the Northern Ireland Office to implementing the changes outlined in the Joint Action Plan published today with this report.  I know that they also believe that the implementation of these changes will ensure the best possible service," Kit Chivers added.