The Opportunity

Tricordant were requested by HM Coroner for Inner South London to support him to address the many difficult challenges facing the service at that time. Despite the sterling efforts of the coronial team over recent years a significant backlog of complex cases had built up, including particularly difficult death in custody cases, with the earliest waiting a number of years since the date of death. Though there were nominally fewer cases being referred to the coroner, the court workload was actually growing due to the trend of increasing complexity of cases and contesting by solicitors. The prison population within the jurisdiction was discovered to be in the process of doubling and plans had to be made to handle the resultant expected increase in the number of death in custody cases.

There was insufficient staff capacity and court facilities to cope with and reduce the backlog. Time was also being spent simply managing the queue of complex cases and keeping interested parties informed and happy. The areas that were to be particularly investigated through the project were: coronial team process efficiency; buildings and estates options; IT systems support and performance measurement. A strategic plan was to be drawn up to take the jurisdiction forward, recommending how to catch back the backlog of complex cases and significantly improve the jurisdiction’s level of efficiency.

Tricordant’s Approach

Tricordant conducted extensive interviews of staff and stakeholders, mapped the jurisdiction’s primary work processes and created a detailed capacity model to calculate future court and staff demands given predicted trends in referrals, postmortems, inquests and case complexity. Tricordant advised HM Coroner that an integrated ‘whole system’ plan was urgently required to address the backlog of cases. Only by reducing the backlog could efficient, effective and safe working be fully developed. The very process of adopting the systems improvements to achieve the ‘catchback’ would lead to a leaner, more efficient and responsive system in the long run, with ongoing performance and financial benefits well beyond the period of reducing the backlog. The output of the project was a proposed business case making recommendations to the consortium of local authorities responsible for funding the court.

The proposed business case presented an integrated, detailed catchback plan. It analysed the costs and benefits of the various options for additional court building facilities, deputy and assistant coroners, coroner’s officers and court staff to deliver the catchback and went on to propose a substantial range of savings to improve efficiency.

Superb analysis of complexity and diplomatic, validating interviews with staff. Very flexible and conscious of value in a local authority budget-cutting environment. Staff felt enormously grateful and valued.

Dr. Andrew Harris, HM Coroner

The Outcome

In July 2011 the proposed business case was presented to the jurisdiction at their away day, to which members of the consortium of local authorities, Metropolitan police, coroners and court staff were invited both to hear the proposals and to join in with group-work discussing how to work together to develop an affordable and feasible plan.

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