Extra money to tackle inquest backlog in Cambridgeshire

Lawrence Court, Huntingdon, home of the county's coroner's service.

Lawrence Court, Huntingdon, home of the county's coroner's service. - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire County Council has committed to increasing funding for the coroner service to address a backlog of cases, but will wait until September to release the amount designated.

The council has also said it will seek additional funding from central Government, claiming the county's four prisons and advanced medical research means it has a higher number of complex inquest than other areas.

The Coroner and Justice Act 2009 says inquest cases should be heard within six months, but the latest figures show the Cambridgeshire coroner service has 86 outstanding cases.

A Cambridgeshire County Council report says: "This is significantly higher than many coronial areas."

Speaking at a meeting of the council's communities and partnership committee on August 8, the department service director Adrian Chapman said the county's coroner service "is not resourced adequately" and announced further funding.

He said the coroner service receives money from central Government, but that the council would put in further resources.

He said the volume of cases the coroner service receives is "steady" but the complexity of cases is increasing, for a number of reasons.

Most Read

But he said Cambridgeshire's leading role in medical research was a "significant" factor, noting that hosting two world-leading teaching hospitals and advance research brings people from all over the country for care.

The complexity and often atypical nature of the care is then reflected in the way patients die, which then often requires an inquest.

He said: "We have acknowledged the fact that there is a backlog and we think that [the coroner service] isn't resourced adequately at the moment. But we have provisionally agreed this morning in the joint management team meeting of directors some initial investment into the service for the next 12 months which will deal with the backlog."

He added: "We will be sharing more detail of that in the September finance report".

A council report said an additional £194,000 was already allocated to the service in this year's budget.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Chapman did not reveal how much additional funding the council would be providing until September.

He said he hopes further investment will also prevent a further backlog from accumulating.

A report on the backlog said: "The coroner service continues to face significant challenges due to several unavoidable pressures resulting in increasing workloads. Workload increases can be attributed to three main causes: the complexity of the coronial area; the increasing complexity of the cases referred; and the historic backlog that must be tackled alongside the other pressures."