Post-mortem standards

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Standards for the management of hospital post-mortem examinations

A post-mortem examination is a medical procedure carried out by pathologists to identify the cause and mechanism of death. Post-mortem examinations may also provide valuable information on the effectiveness of medical and/or surgical treatments, and are of value to increasing medical knowledge through clinical audit, research and education.

We have developed updated standards for the management of hospital post-mortem examinations

Purpose and scope

This document specifies a minimum set of performance standards for the management of hospital post-mortem examinations and can be used to reinforce national consistency and drive improvement within hospital post-mortem examinations across Scotland.

NHSScotland is committed to delivering the best clinical care, including after the death of an individual and supporting people who have been bereaved. These standards apply to NHS boards and staff involved in hospital post-mortem examinations, including the process for authorisation. This includes, but is not limited to, pathologists, anatomical pathology technologists, mortuary technicians, medical and nursing staff, staff involved in transportation of the deceased, and staff involved with bereavement care and support.

The standards cover the following areas:

  • governance
  • authorisation process
  • dignity and respect for the deceased and people who have been bereaved
  • pathology examination and reporting
  • removal, retention, storage, handling, transportation and disposal of the body, embryos, fetuses, tissue blocks, glass slides or organs, and
  • education and training.

Standards overview

The sections below will give you an overview of each of the 6 standards we have developed in relation to the management of hospital post-mortem examinations. Detailed information including the rationale and criteria for each standard can be found by downloading the full publication. 

Each NHS board has a governance structure in place for the safe, effective and person-centred management of hospital post-mortem examinations and reporting.

Authorisation is obtained for all hospital post-mortem examinations in line with legislation and national guidance.

The deceased and people who have been bereaved are treated with dignity and respect, and in accordance with their wishes.

Hospital post-mortem examination and reporting takes place in line with legislation and national and professional guidance.

Each NHS board has processes in place for the removal, storage, handling, transportation and disposal of the body, embryos, fetuses, tissue blocks, glass slides or organs.

Each NHS board ensures staff have the knowledge, skills and experience to deliver a safe, effective and person-centred post-mortem examination service.

Published Date: 30 June 2016

Evidence

What is a standard?

A standard is a statement of an expected level of service which demonstrates delivery of person-centred, safe and effective healthcare, and promotes understanding, comparison and improvement of that care.

Standards can be used for national consistency and/or for local improvement.