Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Communication of results of necropsies in north east Thames region.

British Medical Journal 1991; 303 doi: (Published 16 November 1991) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1991;303:1244
  1. P Whitty,
  2. C Parker,
  3. F Prieto-Ramos,
  4. S al-Kharusi
  1. Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


    OBJECTIVE--To evaluate the adequacy of reporting of results of necropsy to referring clinicians and to general practitioners. DESIGN--Questionnaire survey of referring clinicians and general practitioners of deceased patients in four districts in North East Thames region. Patients were selected by retrospective systematic sampling of 50 or more necropsy reports in each district. SETTING--One teaching hospital, one inner London district general hospital, and two outer London district general hospitals. PARTICIPANTS--70 consultants and 146 general practitioners who were asked about 214 necropsy reports; coroners' reports were excluded. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Time taken for dispatch of final reports after necropsy, consultants' recognition of the reports, general practitioners' recognition of the reports or of their findings, and consultants' recall of having discussed the findings with relatives. RESULTS--Only two hospitals dispatched final reports including histological findings (mean time to dispatch 144 days and 22 days respectively). 42 (60%) consultants and 83 (57%) general practitioners responded to the survey. The percentage of reports seen by consultants varied from 37% (n = 13) to 87% (n = 36); in all, only 47% (39/83) of general practitioners had been informed of the findings by any method. Consultants could recall having discussed findings with only 42% (47/112) of relatives. CONCLUSIONS--Communication of results of necropsies to hospital clinicians, general practitioners, and relatives is currently inadequate in these hospitals. IMPLICATIONS AND ACTION--A report of the macroscopic findings should be dispatched immediately after necropsy to clinicians and general practitioners; relatives should routinely be invited to discuss the necroscopic findings. One department has already altered its practice.