Following the written statement today (11 June 2018) by Lord O’Shaughnessy, Minister at the Department of Health, outlining the Government’s long-awaited response to the 2016 consultation into death certification procedures, Past President Nigel Lymn Rose – who has campaigned for change to these outdated and confusing procedures for many years, on behalf of the NAFD – said:

“Having waited for two years for the Government’s proposals to make death certification more consistent, and less distressing and confusing for grieving families, we find ourselves still waiting – as the Government has decided to defer any substantive reforms of certification procedures for at least another year, while focusing instead on internal matters such as introducing Medical Examiners into the NHS, a role which is designed to root out malpractice.

The announcement, which only applies to England at present, also only focuses on deaths in hospital whereas, in reality, the greater concern is the deaths of those that die outside an NHS setting. We welcome the news there will be no additional public charge for the Medical Examiner’s service in this first phase, but the Department of Health warns in the document that the service will at some point need to be funded, indicating that bereaved families are likely to continue to be charged, it will be extended to burials as well as cremations, and funeral directors will be expected to collect it.

“In our view, the Department of Health has let the public down. Faced with the death of a loved one, or the knowledge that one is imminent, families will have to continue to have to quickly decide whether the person they love will be buried or cremated – a somewhat brutal question which is often extremely distressing for them – in order to negotiate one of two entirely different certification routes in order to get a Medical Certificate of Cause of death (MCCD) and be able to arrange the funeral. We have campaigned for years for these procedures to be more straightforward and respectful of the needs of bereaved people and it is infuriating that the government has chosen to avoid progressing these vital reforms again.”