Dr Nigel Kennea, Lead Medical Examiner (Consultant Neonatologist)

Dr Nigel Kennea, Lead Medical Examiner (Consultant Neonatologist), spoke to us about how his role has changed as a result of Covid-19.

Medical Examiners (MEs) provide support for the bereaved when their loved one sadly dies in hospital. They also work closely with clinical teams to help improve the process around death certification.

How have you and the team had to adapt?

Our main challenge has been to manage the increase in number of families that require support and information following the death of a loved one.

MEs review every death in hospital and Covid-19 has increased demand on the service by three or four fold. We have had to evolve processes quickly because we can’t meet face-to-face with families. Providing good, timely and accurate documentation helps families with the process of registering a death and to arrange a funeral – so in recent months we have had to also strengthen communication with Registrars and Coroners.

We’re also there to support clinical teams with the statutory processes around the death of a patient. There’s a real need to support colleagues, particularly junior doctors, with the demands of their work.

What have you found the most challenging?

The increase in work of our service has been difficult but I’ve been amazed by the generosity of staff who have volunteered to become trained as MEs.

The Bereavement Team, led by Margi Singh, have worked tirelessly, seven days a week, to support families. Kate Hutt has been amazing coordinating the work of the ME office and also ensuring up-to-date and accurate data of Covid-19 deaths are reported to national teams.

Is there one thing that you’ve found inspiring about the response of colleagues to Covid-19?

Every day our MEs have been supporting junior doctors. This can be difficult and emotional work but the team has made the ME office a safe space – little things like providing refreshments for staff has had a wonderful impact.

Have you got any advice for staff on how to cope with the additional pressures of work?

Different individuals manage sadness or stress in different ways, but I think it’s important to recognise that team work and the ability to share our worries can help.

We have to try and continue this amazing effort across the whole NHS in doing the best for patients and families, but we do need to look after ourselves as well.