The Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, addressed the NAFD’s autumn meeting at the end of last week on his work to reform the coronial service, and proposed changes to the way funeral directors and coroners work together.
The Chief Coroner highlighted his work to establish national standards in what remains an essentially local service. He noted that there has already been efficiency improvements, resulting in 45% decrease in inquests taking longer than twelve months to conclude; an overall drop in the number of inquests required and the public also now having greater access to hearings and documentation. The Chief Coroner also indicated his support for the use of scanning in post mortem examinations and called for regional centres of excellence for pathology and mortuary services.
During the presentation the Chief Coroner outlined his concerns about the variety of formal and informal working relationships between funeral firms and coroners. He shared his view that there should instead be a regular tender process held by each coronial district for coroner’s contracts, something that the NAFD has challenged in its response to the consultation. The Association has also challenged the Chief Coroner’s view that these contracts should operate at zero cost as it feels that this could have a negative impact on bereaved families as well as on the funeral firms which deliver the services. Representation on behalf of members to the Chief Coroner continues on the subject.
The NAFD also took the opportunity to seek a progress report on work to address operational failings in the West London coronial service. The Chief Coroner advised that progress has been made in improving the timeliness of communication and further changes would be made in the coming weeks.
As well as dealing with the formal proceedings of the Association’s half year AGM, the autumn meeting also heard from Amy Meadows, of Meadows Communications, who has closely with Public Health England and National Suicide Prevention Alliance on producing a guide for people bereaved by suicide and the professionals, including funeral directors, who support them. Further information is available about the resources available can be found at www.supportaftersuicide.org.uk.