Birmingham to trial CT scan post-mortems for road traffic victims

Birmingham City Council has negotiated a deal that will provide the city with access to a CT post-mortem scanner (CTPM) for victims of road incidents on a 12-month trial basis. The trial follows calls from local campaigners and Birmingham MPs to stop, often unnecessary and invasive, second post-mortems being carried out on victims of road deaths. 

Families of the victims of road incidents are often made to wait for second post-mortems before they can bury their loved ones. In the West Midlands, it has become routine practice for the perpetrator’s legal defence team to be given the option to ask for a second post-mortem as part of a court proceeding. However, this is usually unnecessary as most first post-mortems after road deaths identify a clear cause of death. Second post-mortems can be upsetting for grieving families and can cause long delays before funerals can be held.

Lucy Harrison said:

“We are delighted that the Council have decided to trial the scanner, and particularly that it will be utilised for road traffic fatalities. Elaine and I have always just wanted to spare other families the additional heartache of having to wait unnecessarily long periods of time to have their loved ones back. Losing a loved one to a road death is traumatic enough, and we hope that this will mean bodies can be returned to families more quickly, and make things just a tiny bit easier.

We are so thankful that the council have listened to our concerns and we have a huge amount of gratitude to Preet Gill MP, who has been amazing, as well as Rachel Maclean MP and Richard Burden MP. Elaine and I really hope the whole country will begin to move towards this system as it is so much kinder to the bereaved. We miss our siblings every day, but it is so comforting to see the good that has come about in their memories.
Finally, I would just add we were both supported by RoadPeace at the worst time in our lives, and they really helped to get us through and gave us the encouragement to try to fight for what we believed in.”

Elaine Gordon said:

“We are both extremely pleased about this outcome. We are very happy that the Council are taking into consideration the needs of grieving families and how important it is that families receive their loved ones back without any delays. When you have lost a loved one whether it be a traumatic or anticipated death, it is sometimes difficult to comprehend. 

Both Lucy and I know what it’s like to have lost loved ones through a traumatic road collision and then to have to wait for the first post-mortem and then a second being proposed or performed in my sister Gina's case. I believe that with the use of the CT scanner, which is able to identify traumatic injuries and causes of death, this will help to reduce the long waiting period that we had to endure. The reason why Lucy and I started this campaign was because we did not want another family to have to experience this unnecessary additional pain of a long waiting period.

I am really thankful and appreciate Preet’s help and support, she has been amazing. Especially in bringing other MPs together, like my MP Richard Burden, and Lucy’s MP Rachel Maclean. Throughout this campaign, Preet has been consistently supportive. To say thank you feels like such an understatement. I am really grateful for all that she’s done, she’s gone above and beyond.”

Preet Kaur Gill, MP for Birmingham, Edgbaston, who has been campaigning for the use of a CTPM with Lucy and Elaine, said:

“The use of this CT scanner could help avoid the need for a second post-mortem and spare many grieving families additional distress at an otherwise very difficult and traumatic time. 

I want to thank Lucy, Elaine and RoadPeace for all their efforts in bringing about this much-needed change, and to Cllr Sharon Thompson and Birmingham City Council for all their help in agreeing to trial the use of the CT scanner.” 

Councillor Sharon Thompson, the Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods with responsibility for bereavement services, said:

“This new agreement is just one of the many steps being taken to transform our approach to bereavement services.

When a family is faced with the death of a loved one, it’s a stressful and hugely emotional time. As a council we’re listening to what people in Birmingham want and we’re doing all we can to ensure this is as simple a process as possible. I’m pleased to say that we now have access to the CTPM scanner at a much more realistic and affordable cost which makes it a viable option for trauma situations like road traffic incidents.”

Since the trial came into effect last month, there have been 17 cases where the Coroner has deemed that the use of CTPM was appropriate. Of these 17 cases, one was at the request of the family.

This trial brings Birmingham City Council into line with other West Midlands local authorities. Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Dudley have agreed to use CTPM at Sandwell Valley Crematorium as their first line of intervention.