Ongoing projects and enhancements

National police form

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This project was funded on its inception by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, and involved the development of a standard form for police around Australia to use when reporting a death to the coroner. Previously, each state and territory had their own individual forms, which collected varying levels and types of information about each death.

The original scope of the project was to capture additional information concerning water related fatalities, however the proposed police form data set soon expanded to include extra information about drug and alcohol deaths (as part of the Drugs Module Project) and additional information about a range of other types of death.

A standard template form was developed in consultation with pathologists, coroners, researchers, police and other stakeholders. An example of the template form can be viewed here. The form is intended to be completed electronically by police and emailed to the relevant coroners office. Macro’s have since been incorporated into the form so only relevant sections pertaining to the type of death in each case are presented.

The national police form should result in collection of extra information by the police at the initial investigation of a fatality, which will benefit pathologists and coroners. This additional information also has the potential to contribute to early trend analysisand will result in the standardisation of information that is provided to a coroner by police.

The decision to implement the national police form in each State and Territory has to be made by each relevant jurisdiction. To date, a version of the national form has been implemented in New South Wales, ACT, Queensland, and Tasmania. It is expected the form will be implemented in Victoria shortly. A more detailed assessment of the progress of implementation of the national form in each of the states and territories is available here.

The next steps for the project are to implement automatic extraction of the information collected from the national police form into fields on the NCIS so as to allow searching on this extra information.

Note: Not yet available to all users, pending coronial approval.

Drugs module

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The Drugs Module initiative aims to enhance the amount, consistency and timeliness of the data available about the role of drugs and alcohol in deaths reported to a coroner. This project was funded on inception by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing and is now reliant on alternative funding sources to progress implementation.

The goal of this project is to obtain additional information directly from the toxicology laboratories to enhance the existing NCIS core data set. This would involve collecting information about the following:

  • whether drugs/alcohol were detected;
  • the name of the drug, chemical class of the drug and what specimen was tested;
  • the levels of the drug detected;
  • the classification of death from a toxicological point of view (eg. was the drug detected a therapeutic dose, toxic amount, involved a drug interaction or would have caused impairment).

This information would be stored in additional data fields in the NCIS, and could therefore be searched upon in conjunction with existing NCIS data.

A further goal of the Drugs Module was to encourage standardisation across Australia with regards to toxicology testing and reporting. However, this is a longer term initiative outside of the influence of the NCIS.

Achievements to date on the drugs module project have involved:

  • Two workshops conducted involving toxicologists, police, forensic pathologists and drug researchers concerning the data sets to be collected for the drugs module and standardisation of terminology.
  • Agreement by pathologists around Australia to a common reporting format for cause of death in multiple drug fatalities. Pathologists will now report in the format “Multiple Drug Toxicity (drug 1, drug 2, drug 3…etc)”. Previously the cause of death may have just read “multiple drug toxicity” but not given an indication as to what drugs were involved.
  • Production of a Glossary of terms used by pathologists in describing the cause of death in drug related cases.
  • Agreement by toxicologists nationally on the standardised terms for chemical classes of drugs and information to be collected for the NCIS Drugs Module.
  • Incorporation of standardised questions concerning drug and alcohol deaths on the national police form for reporting of death.
  • Implementation of Drugs Module for Victorian data set.*

A delay in the implementation of the drugs module was encountered in 2003 when it was found that the transfer of information from the toxicology laboratories around Australia to the NCIS would in some cases require a significant upgrade to local case management systems in the laboratory, for which funds were not locally available.

Over the past few years those toxicology laboratories which had older case management systems have upgraded or implemented new systems for operational reasons, which should now allow an easier collection and transfer of the required drugs module information.

Implementation nationwide is contingent on further funding being available.

Note: Only available to users with specialist knowledge on relevant area of research.

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