A GRIEVING widower has slammed the Essex coroner’s service after it took 14 months to hear why his wife died – even though it was the same outcome as the provisional cause of death.
Brian Wallis, of Cedar Close, Southend, feels he should not have had to wait so long after his wife Rosemary, 67, died on April 6, 2013.
She had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, caused through contact with asbestos, a month earlier.
But he had to wait until last month to hear the inquest, even though the 2010 Charter for Coroners says they should be heard within 28 weeks.
Mr Wallis’ criticism comes after it emerged last week that Caroline Beasley-Murray, the senior coroner for Essex, received an official warning from a watchdog over an inquest which took more than 13 months to conclude.
Mr Wallis, a decorated RAF veteran, said: “I was told to prepare for an inquest in September last year, but then this was delayed and I did not hear anything again from the coroner until June this year.
“It is unacceptable to have to wait that long without any explanation or update. I don’t know if it was the fault of the coroner’s office or Southend Hospital, which did not complete and send a report on histology until May this year.”
Mrs Beasley-Murray has recorded a verdict that Rosemary died as a result of an industrial disease, which was given as the provisional cause of death after a post mortem.
The coroner made her decision based on MrsWallis, more than 40-year career working in Government buildings, mainly for the MoD, saying that by the balance of probabilities, she had come into contact with asbestos in her working life.
Mrs Beasley-Murray was rapped by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office last week for delaying an inquest which opened in January 2013 and failing to keep family members and witnesses properly notified about the case until it concluded on March 13 this year.
It said her actions constituted misconduct and warned her about her future performance.
Essex relatives wait an average of about 40 weeks for an inquest to be concluded, compared to the national guidelines of 28 weeks.
Essex Coroner’s Service has previously come under fire over delays and was rapped in 2012, when Essex County Council took over from Essex Police, as many inquests were taking two years to conclude.
It moved into a new court in County Hall last December, but is still dealing with a backlog of cases relating to deaths at Southend Hospital.
A spokesman for the coroner said: “Inquests are an emotional and sensitive time and we seek to minimise any delays that may occur.
“However, it is important the coroner has access to the full facts and information to arrive at her decision.
“Essex County Council and the HM Senior Coroner for Essex have worked hard to improve the timeliness of inquests, which has been helped by the new court complex opening in December.”
Call – Brian Wallis
Jacqueline Totterdell, Southend Hospital’s chief executive, said: “Our records indicate the reports were requested by the coroner’s office on April 1, 2014, and the hospital provided one report in April and another in May.
“There are a number of older cases opened by the previous coroner, and we will continue to work with the coroner’s office to conclude these in a timely manner.”