• New Medical Examiner’s fee unavoidable for bereaved families
  • Only applicable in England and Wales. Equivalent fee in Scotland to be paid by the Scottish Government
  • NAFD funeral directors have turned down financial incentives to collect the new fee

The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), which represents more than 3,700 UK funeral homes, has raised serious concerns about the proposed new Medical Examiner’s fee which is due to be consulted on by the Department of Health this month, but has once again been delayed.

Under Government proposals, from October 2014 all deaths not referred to the Coroner will be assessed by a new Medical Examiner under the direction of the local authority. The current Doctors’ Fee (£XXXXX) only applies to cremations, when the death is no referred to the Coroner. However the new proposed new fee will be applicable to all funerals when the Coroner is not involved and would be an additional and unavoidable cost to more than 100,000 bereaved families each year, who prefer to choose burial.

Although the NAFD welcomes changes to the current system of death certification it has consistently raised concerns about the mechanics of the proposed new Medical Examiner’s fee in meetings with Ministers and officials from the Department of Health, as well as the Local Government Association.

Alan Slater, Chief Executive Officer of the NAFD, said: “Whilst we agree with the principle of reforming death certification this is yet another cost heaped onto families at a tough time and is tantamount to a ‘tax on death’.
“The funeral profession is united in its stance and our colleagues at the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors are joining up in our opposition to these new fees.

“The continuing delays to the consultation suggest the Government are struggling to find a mechanism that works and is seen as fair. There is a strong suspicion among our members that funeral directors are seen as an easy potential scapegoat for what will be an unpopular new charge on bereaved families. For some this additional cost will drive them into the arms of payday loan companies or they will simply fail to pay their funeral bills, leaving funeral directors with increasing and unsustainable levels of debt.

“While keeping the Social Fund payment static for over a decade, the Government and local authorities have overseen an above inflation rise in the cost of other funeral disbursements – the fixed fees for cremation and burial which are outside funeral directors control – and they seem happy to add to their burden with this new tax.”

Mr Slater added: “A new, albeit slightly different system is being adopted in Scotland following a successful pilot scheme. Interestingly the Scottish Government has decided that this service will be provided without charge and the NAFD do not see why there should be a charge for the bereaved in England and Wales when there is not in Scotland.”
The Government has also not established who will legally be liable for paying the new fee. The NAFD does not believe that funeral directors should be responsible for collecting a fee for which they have no contractual responsibility when bodies such as local authority registrars are already equipped to receive fees from the bereaved for other certificates (e.g. death certificates).

Such is The NAFD’s level of concern it has refused to collect the new fee and even turned down financial incentives to do so.