A MORE 'streamlined' service is being promised to bereaved families in Portsmouth if a planned Hampshire coroner merger is approved.
With the retirement of the county's senior coroners due this year it has been proposed that services in Portsmouth and South East Hampshire, Southampton, Central and New Forest and North East Hampshire are combined.
Although no coroners courts will be closed as a result, one office - in Basingstoke - would shut.
It is thought the move, which is recommended in national guidance, would create a saving of £25,000 to Portsmouth City Council.
Families in Portsmouth would continue to use the Portsmouth and South East Hampshire service as usual - as well as the court in Guildhall Square for inquests.
A spokesman for the Hampshire Coroner Service, added: 'The chief coroner has set out national guidance for neighbouring services to amalgamate when coroners retire, to help make the wider service more resilient and efficient.
'Consequently, the retirement of the coroner serving the Portsmouth and South East Hampshire area has now driven a proposed merger of the Portsmouth and South East Hampshire coroner area with the rest of Hampshire, under Hampshire County Council’s Coroner Service.
'Inquests would continue to be held in Basingstoke, Winchester and Portsmouth, and bereaved families would receive a more streamlined, accessible service to continue to meet their needs.'
Another option - to merge with the Isle of Wight coroner service - will also be considered, although an estimated saving would be £15,000 for the council.
Portsmouth City Council’s city solicitor Peter Baulf said: 'Both the proposed options for merging coroner services ensure the needs of bereaved families remain a priority and provide better accessibility to a more streamlined service.'
Last year 7,797 deaths were recorded in Hampshire, 35 per cent of which required a post mortem.
A decision on whether to pursue the merger with either Hampshire or the Isle of Wight will be made at a Portsmouth cabinet meeting tomorrow