Current Affairs

Proposed changes to the death certification process in England and Wales

The Department of Health has been seeking views on proposed changes to the death certification process in England and Wales. The reforms plan to reduce red tape and improve upon current safeguards.

Funeral Service Times asked a Ministry of Health spokesperson how these potential alterations may impact on members of the funeral profession.

How do the proposed reforms aim to improve safeguards and simplify the current system?

“Involving medical examiners in the process of death certification will improve safeguards because medical examiners will provide independent scrutiny of the cause of death proposed by a doctor. The scrutiny will be a unified process of making enquiries of the doctor and the bereaved family as well a review of relevant medical records that led a doctor to establish cause(s) of death, for all deaths not subject of a coroner investigation.

“The medical examiner scrutiny will be robust, irrespective of whether a death is followed by a cremation or a burial. All deaths subject to a medical examiner’s scrutiny will involve the bereaved family having an opportunity to raise any concerns about care leading to a death. Medical examiners will have legal powers to report a death to the coroner for investigation and to report any concerns to the local health care provider in order to change local practice and procedures.”

How will these changes may impact on funeral directors?

“We don’t envisage the medical examiner process to impact unduly on funeral directors and the arrangements they make with the bereaved people for a funeral. Funeral directors will be required, as they do now, for a registrar’s authority for a burial or cremation (commonly known as the Green Form) before proceeding with a funeral.

“The registrar will issue the ‘Green Form’ to the bereaved after the bereaved have presented a confirmed MCCD (Medical Certificate for cause of death) given to them by the doctor in an unsealed envelope and the registrar has received a medical examiner’s confirmation form by fax or email.  

“Funeral directors will not be required to present Cremation Forms 4 and/or 5 to the crematoria or collect the appropriate fees. These forms and fees together with Form 10 will be abolished as will the role of a medical referee.”   

Will crematoria see changes under the reforms?

“The role of the crematorium medical referee will be abolished when the Department of Health implements its death certification reforms. Cremation authorities will be able to make arrangements for a cremation on receipt of an application form for cremation and either a registrar’s certificate for burial or cremation (Green Form) or coroner’s certificate for cremation.”   

The consultation closes on June 15 2016.


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