Preparing for change

January 21, 2019   //   No Comments

SAIF thanks Paul Allcock, Past President, for this month’s blog.

Brexit, the CMA investigation and Medical Examiners.  All subjects very much on the tongues of all involved in delivering funeral services.

Probably the first two questions this heading raises are: How are things going to change? And if we don’t know, how can we prepare?  Both very understandable questions.

As I write this, the Government has just lost the vote on its deal to leave the EU by a huge majority.  So I’m not going to make any comments here on this subject as the goal posts will have moved on numerous occasions by the time this is published.  But there will of course be some services hugely affected by the ultimate deal that is made or not.  None less than the coffins and sundries which are imported from abroad.

Closer to home and there are various changes which are going to be upon us very soon, but there are so many questions still to be answered as to what extent any changes are likely to effect our daily business.  The main talking points currently are, of course, the CMA’s pending investigation into funeral services including funeral directors and crematoria.  Some are second guessing the outcomes, which could possibly include some form of registration and even the introduction of an Inspector of Funeral Services, as is already the case in Scotland.  But at this stage nobody knows what recommendations the CMA will take, not even the CMA.

As an organisation SAIF will keep its membership as up to date as possible is the investigation continues.  It is also essential for us to retain open dialogue with the CMA to ensure that they have as clear an understanding as possible of the role of the funeral director and what the appropriate standards of service and premises looks like.

From April this year we will be seeing the introduction of Medical Examiners within the NHS Hospitals.  They will initially be replacing the role of the second doctor in completing part 5 of the cremation forms which will mean little change for funeral directors in the first instance.  It has been stated that this will begin from April, but it is unclear at this stage how widespread this will be and how long it will take to roll this out across the whole country.  So while some areas may find that change happens immediately, there may be others who have to wait an indefinite period of time before a Medical Examiner is introduced.  Then there are further questions as to how long it will take to move the system into the wider community and the ultimate proposed change of replacing the two doctors’ forms completely and having the equivalent documentation for burial as well as cremation.

So how do we prepare?  It is fairly simple.

With regards to the Medical Examiners, all funeral directors need to do is be aware that change is happening.  Keep your eyes and ears open to communications from SAIF and your local hospitals and ensure that all staff are kept up to date with what’s happening.

With regards to the CMA investigation, again stay aware.  At this stage every funeral director still has an opportunity to influence the CMA.  Either by sending your views directly to them, or in some cases you may receive an enquiry from the CMA directly.  If this happens I would encourage you to respond in a positive manner and to furnish them with information clearly and honestly.

As far as preparing for any ultimate changes and possible regulation, if you are proud of your premises, your staff are trained appropriately, and your charges are fair, then there is likely to be nothing to concern you at all.