Families reassured over death certification delays

18/02/2020   //   No Comments

Bereaved families concerned about not completing death certification documentation within the legal time limit are unlikely to face sanction if the delay relates to doctors failing to process paperwork in time.

A recent meeting of the Burial and Cremation Advisory Group (BCAG), chaired by the Ministry of Justice and attended by SAIF’s Government Liaison Officer Paul Allcock, heard how some families in England were struggling to register deaths within the statutory five days.

During a discussion on the new medical examiners system, which is due to be rolled out in full in spring 2021, the group was told that people would not find themselves in trouble if the delay had been caused by doctors.

It is hoped the new system, which has been introduced in some NHS hospitals as part of reforms to the death certification process, will eliminate errors or wrongdoing – and speed up the registration process.

From April next year, it is anticipated that medical examiners will be deployed in communities across the UK, removing the need for a second doctor’s signature whilst adding a dedicated line of scrutiny to certification.

The BCAG meeting in late January was advised that there were examples of registration taking longer than the law requires under the current system, however, there would not be any consequences for families and registrars would be understanding of the situation.

Speaking after the meeting, SAIF’s Government Liaison Officer Paul Allcock said funeral directors should advise families accordingly if they were facing delays.

“There are examples of the new medical examiner system working well where it has been adopted by the NHS and I’m sure when it is rolled out in 2021, it will bring positive changes.

“As for the current situation, we were assured during the BCAG meeting that families wouldn’t be in trouble if they were waiting longer than the law allows for paperwork. As funeral directors, we should be proactive where possible and help families advise registrars of anticipated delays,” he said.

Further information about the medical examiner system can be found here.

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