Issue details

21/00010 -Digital Autopsy

Proposed Decision:

In relation to the delivery of the Digital Autopsy facility, to delegate authority to the Corporate Director of Growth, Environment and Transport to:

Enter into and or vary significant legal agreements including, but not limited to, a Service Level Agreement, Memorandum of Understanding and Collaboration Agreement with Medway Council and any other stakeholders as required.

Enter into and or vary contracts for the delivery of the Digital Autopsy service including, but not limited to, body scanning and body transport.

Consult with the Director of Infrastructure and enter into all necessary legal agreements for the delivery and the construction of the project, including purchase of the site if necessary.

Reasons for Decision:

KCC has a statutory responsibility for funding all the costs of the Coroners Service for Kent and Medway with Medway Council contributing 15.3% (based on Medway population) to the running costs of the service. Included in this is the provision of a mortuary service which is currently delivered through NHS hospitals on a contract basis.


There are several issues putting the continuation of the current service levels at risk:


1.    NHS mortuaries are struggling to store the Coroner Services bodies as they do not have sufficient capacity to deal with the normal throughput of Coroner cases during the winter period, as well as their own hospital deaths. To do so they must hire in temporary storage for which KCC must pay for, and which is a growing pressure on the service. 


2.    Pathologist costs have and are continuing to rise sharply due to a national lack of staff which has created significant unfunded pressures for the service. This cost has been rising year on year due to a shortage of pathologists available in the Kent area and or who are willing to commit their time to Coroner work. The number of Pathologists working on Coroner cases has reduced in recent times and therefore agency pathologists with much higher costs have had to be commissioned.


3.    The uncontrollable nature of both the lack of mortuary capacity and pathologist staff builds in risk to the Coroner Service budgets, which have as a result, increased year on year.


4.    There remains a potential risk of a Judicial Review if the current arrangements adversely affect service delivery to the statutory standards set by government.


This project enables KCC to deliver a Digital Autopsy and body storage facility. The digital solution will deliver a body image scanning facility that will seek to provide efficiencies for the service, by significantly reducing the number of invasive post-mortems required and making the process quicker and more efficient. This in turn will deliver an improved level of service to the communities in Kent, from having their loved ones returned sooner and avoiding the need for invasive procedures which is not supported by some faith groups and can be distressing for some families.


This digital approach is supported by the Kent Senior Coroners, while also future proofing the resilience of the service and mitigating future unfunded costs. It could also strengthen KCC’s ability to respond to Mass Fatalities and mitigates against significant financial outlays that would come with such an event.




Other options considered included:


1.    Do nothing – (continue with outsourcing model)

2.    Digital Autopsy all the way through to construction 

3.    Digital Autopsy all the way through to construction and Public Mortuary to planning – preferred option

4.    Digital Autopsy and Public Mortuary all the way through to construction


KCC has a statutory responsibility to support the Coroner Service and meet all service costs.

Decision type: Key

Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Notice of proposed decision first published: 12/01/2021

Decision due: Not before 10th Feb 2021 by Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services

Lead member: Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services

Lead director: Stephanie Holt-Castle

Department: Growth, Environment & Transport

Contact: Jonathan White, Southborough Project Manager 03000 417198 Email: Tel: 01622 696904.


Public consultation will be undertaken wherever it is required as part of the delivery of the Digital Autopsy service including planning for example.

The proposed decision will be taken to Growth, Economic Development and Communities Cabinet Committee date to be confirmed.
Views have been sought from local Members

Financial implications: KCC is seeking to invest up to the approved budget of c£3M in delivering the Digital Autospy and body storage facility in Kent. We will be seeking a financial investment from Medway Council towards the delivery of the scheme . KCC is seeking to deliver revenue savings as part of this project . Row ref 10 p9 of KCC 2020/21 Budget Book.

Legal implications: KCC will need to enter into and or vary a number of legal agreements with Medway Council in order to secure the project. KCC will need to terminate, enter into and or vary a number of legal agreements to deliver the scanning services which will affect current suppliers. KCC will need to enter into a number of legal agreements to develop and deliver the site. Including potentially purchase of the site

Equalities implications: Equalities impact has been completed and some positive impacts have been identified as per the earlier text and no adverse impacts have been identified in the Equalities Impact Assessment. This will be kept under review as the project progresses. No adverse data protection issues are expected as part of this project.


Agenda items