Forensic pathology: role within the Home Office

Information on the role of the Home Office Forensic Pathology Unit and its support of the Pathology Delivery Board.

Forensic pathology is a service provided to the coroners and police forces in England and Wales to assist in the investigation of homicide or suspicious death cases.

Home Office-registered forensic pathologists work within regional group practices, which are independent of the police, coroners and the Home Office. Group practices are currently structured so that pathologists working within them may be self-employed or employed by a university hospital or a hospital trust.

This guide gives information on:

Pathology Delivery Board

The PDB oversees the provision of forensic pathology services in England and Wales. You can read the constitution of the PDB.

For information on how the Pathology Delivery Board handle and process personal information and data, please read the Privacy Information Notice (PDF, 175 KB, 6 pages).

The PDB (on behalf of the Home Secretary) recognises pathologists who have sufficient qualifications, training and experience to act on behalf of coroners and police in suspicious death and homicide cases. Applications to join the register are reviewed by the PDB and applicants are accepted onto the register only if they meet a strict criteria.

You can read the criteria for registration and the protocol Home Office-registered pathologists should abide by.

PDB membership

The board reports directly to the Home Secretary and is made up of stakeholders representing the following organisations:

Revalidation and annual appraisals

Under the Medical Profession (Responsible Officers) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, the PDB is the designated organisation with responsibility for the oversight of appraisal and revalidation of Home Office registered forensic pathologists in England and Wales.

As part of its legal obligation under the regulations, the PDB has appointed an independent ‘Responsible Officer’ to oversee a system of annual appraisals that form part of the 5-year General Medical Council (GMC) revalidation process. View the PDB Responsible Officer Policy (PDF, 217313 KB, 1526 pages).

It is the responsibility of all Home Office registered forensic pathologists to participate in the annual appraisal and revalidation process.

The PDB’s independent responsible officer may also act as a ‘suitable person’ for other specialist pathologists who undertake police case work but who are not on the Home Office register and do not have a prescribed connection to any other body. This may include other sub speciality disciplines such as forensic ophthalmic and forensic neuro pathologists for example.

The PDB’s independent responsible officer, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, MD MBBS FRCPath DipRCPath (Forensic) FCSFS FFFLM AFHEA, announced his intention to resign from the role in June 2023. Following a successful recruitment campaign to appoint his replacement, he was succeeded by Dr Stuart Hamilton MB ChB BMSc (Hons) FRCPath MFFLM, Home Office registered forensic pathologist and Deputy Chief Forensic Pathologist for the East Midlands forensic pathology group practice, who took up his new role on 7 February 2024.

You can download the annual appraisal forms, supporting documents and guidance. These forms, along with other useful documents, can also be found under other information.

Home Office Forensic Pathology Unit

The role of the Home Office Forensic Pathology Unit (HOFPU), based within the Home Office science directorate, is to monitor and maintain those standards pertaining to forensic pathology as set by the Home Office, Royal College of Pathologists and the Forensic Science Regulator. The unit acts as the secretariat to the PDB as well as administering the appraisal process for forensic pathologists.

The HOFPU supports and funds the training of trainee forensic pathologists; investigates complaints made against members of the register; conducts research into homicide and forensic pathology related issues, and maintains close liaison with regional forensic pathology user groups and other key stakeholders.

Contact details

Please consider sending all correspondence by email instead of post. If this is not possible, please inform the office by email or telephone that you will be sending in documentation.

Forensic Pathology Unit
1st floor Peel Building
(NE) Mailpoint A12
2 Marsham Street

Telephone: 0300 106 4829
From overseas: 0044 300 106 4829

Forensic pathology group practices

Nationally, there are 6 regional forensic pathology group practices supporting coroners and the police in England and Wales. Each group practice must consist of a minimum of 3 Home Office registered forensic pathologists.

All members of the register are required to be members of a group practice as a condition of registration. Members of the register are not permitted to practice independently, outside of a formal group practice arrangement. The PDB has published a definition of a group practice.

Within group practices, forensic pathologists agree to abide by the code of practice jointly produced by the Home Office, Royal College of Pathologists, Forensic Science Regulator and the Department of Justice of Northern Ireland.


The PDB ensures that the high standards expected of Home Office registered forensic pathologists are maintained. Pathologists are subject to suitability rules, which replace the disciplinary rules on 1st January 2013.

If you wish to make a complaint against a registered forensic pathologist, you can email the Home Office pathology unit.

Careers in forensic pathology

You must first qualify as a medical doctor before going on to specialise in forensic pathology. This specialism is governed and controlled by the:

These bodies can provide guidance on careers in forensic pathology.

Other information

Published 26 March 2013
Last updated 269 AprilFebruary 20232024 + show all updates
  1. The guidance has been updated following the appointment of a new independent responsible officer in February 2024. The responsible officer policy has also been updated.

  2. The postal address for the Forensic Pathology Unit has been updated.

  3. Corrected telephone number for the Forensic Pathology Unit - 0300 106 4829 or from overseas 0044 300 106 4829.

  4. Added the PDB Responsible Officer policy.

  5. Added a link to proposed human tissue policy for police forces.

  6. Guidance on sudden unexpected death published.

  7. Updated information published.

  8. Added guidance on taking human tissue in post mortems, the role of a forensic pathologist and a study into decision making at the initial scene of unexpected death.

  9. Added a review of forensic pathology in England and Wales by Professor Peter Hutton

  10. Forensic Pathology Unit contact details added.