SAIF – Latest advice on COVID 19

18/03/2020   //   No Comments
SAIF is aware there is lots of conflicting advice across the nation.  It is a very confusing picture how funeral directors should protect themselves from COVID-19 and service their families during this crisis.   Amidst this confusion SAIF seeks to give you a steer for day to day operations, but caveat this advice, if in doubt, err on the side of caution. 
Here are some practical notes on day to day business operations:
1.      In general, do not meet families in their homes to make funeral arrangements, as you do not know if any members of the family are self-isolating with COVID-19 which could pose a health risk to you and your staff.  Where elderly clients plan to make arrangements, we advise you to mention that given their vulnerability, we do not wish to risk their health and therefore we are very happy to arrange the funeral via the telephone or email; or via a relative in the office.
2.      With COVID-19 clients, make arrangements via the telephone or video conference calling (use Skype or Zoom; both are free technology software – you just need a webcam-laptop/tablet and family can view you on screen).    It is an opportunity for them to browse your company website whilst online with them, and talk them through your professional services and coffin range.
3.      If you happen to make arrangements in your offices, make clear notices to families to see on entry about hygiene.  Ensure your staff do not shake hands and that clients have hand sanitiser available on entering the reception.  During the meeting ensure you keep a distance from your clients (two metres is the guideline).  After the meeting use wipes to cleanse the desk, chair, handle and work surfaces of your arrangement room and reception as well as have your staff wash their hands. 
4.     The Cabinet Office are clarifying what the scientific advice is for handling bodies with COVID-19.  Public Health England has downgraded their advice, however, as a Trade Association we are not comfortable with this advice.  Therefore, we continue to recommend a mask, double gloves and an apron as PPE at all times from the hospital mortuary, home, care home, hospice and funeral home mortuary. 
5.      PPE supplies are drastically short.  We have requested the Cabinet Office fast track supplies to funeral homes and we have asked hospitals release some of their stock to funeral directors.  In the meantime, check our members area of the SAIF website with a list of associates and others who may have supplies.
6.     One funeral director are using masks on all removals of deceased to protect their staff with any contaminated air that could be expunged from the deceased.  If you are limited on masks, use wadding, dressing or bandage to cover the face during the removal.  This should reduce the risk to staff from any droplets of contaminated air.
7.      Do not encourage the use of limousines during this pandemic, but have the hearse rendezvous with the family at the memorial venue.
8.     Continue to encourage funeral gatherings; small is beautiful.  Some crematoria are limiting numbers to 30.  We are now aware churches have ceased gatherings or limited to very small gatherings (such as the Roman Catholic, limited to six mourners).  However, at this time we want to encourage close relatives and friends to gather at crematoria.
9.     Please reach out to the local Resilience Officer at your Local Authority to meet with them with crematoria, funeral directors, pathologists, coroners and other health professionals to develop a local emergency plan.
10.  Speak to your local crematoria to see if you can send forms via email that are scanned, rather than physical handling of documentation.  Find out if that is acceptable, if it is, ask the crematoria to circulate this advice to funeral directors.  It may be prudent to persuade families from touching and kissing coffins too. 
Please watch the members area (COVID-19 tab) of the SAIF website for updates.  The situation is changing daily.
CABINET OFFICE MEETING – A new Bill, of Parliament: Coronavirus Action Plan –
Thursday 19th March 2020, House of Commons
We continue to make representation to the Cabinet Office on behalf of funeral directors.  Following the Cabinet Office meeting yesterday afternoon (17/3/20), we have asked for clear guidelines of handling bodies with COVID-19 and managing their funerals. We raised the concern about lack of PPE supplies. Furthermore, we asked that funeral directors need to be classed as primary care providers to facilitate our role in the end of life care of the deceased.
There is due to be a follow-up meeting by early next week.
The Cabinet Office announced a new Bill of Parliament which will be discussed by MPs on Thursday 19th March.
Managing the deceased with respect and dignity
The steps the government is taking to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic will save lives. However, sadly, as has already been seen, people will lose loved ones as a result of this disease. We want to ensure the deceased are treated with the utmost respect and dignity and that the current procedures in relation to death and still-birth registration and management are modified to enable this and to protect public health.

This will take account of the fact that families who have lost a loved one may be self-isolating, and that there may be reduced capacity to register and manage deaths as a result of pandemic-related sickness absence.

The bill intends to make changes to:mean a coroner is only to be notified where a doctor believes there is no medical practitioner who may sign the death certificate, or that they are not available within a reasonable time of the death.introduce powers to enable the provisions under the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 relating to the collection of ashes to be suspended and replaced with a duty to retain until the suspension is lifted, except where family wishes are known. Also, suspend an offence in section 49 of the 2016 Act, allowing any relative of the deceased to complete the cremation application form, regardless of the required hierarchy set out by section 65 of the 2016 Act.expand the list of people who can register a death to include funeral directors acting on behalf of the family.enable electronic transmission of documents that currently have to be physically presented in order to certify the registration of a death.remove the need for a second confirmatory medical certificate in order for a cremation to take place.remove the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 requirement that any inquest into a COVID-19 death must be held with a jury. Other notifiable diseases will still require an inquest with a jury.suspend the referral of certificates to the Death Certification Review Service (DCRS) for review in Scotland under the Certification of Death (Scotland) Act 2011. The timing of the suspension to be at the discretion of Scottish ministersIf the scientific advice indicates that the number of people who might die from COVID-19 is likely to significantly exceed the capacity locally to manage the deceased and other contingency measures have been deployed, local government will have the ability to take control of a component or components of the death management process in their area.

For example, local authorities may choose to direct local actors such as funeral directors, mortuaries owners, crematoriums owners and others, to streamline the death management process. This may include an increase in the operating times of crematoriums, directing companies to use their vehicles to move bodies, or directing others not directly involved in the funeral sector, to provide necessary support.

Only in the most extreme situations where there is a risk to public health would the powers of direction be used and only be used when scientific evidence and operational advice suggests that it is necessary. Activating the powers will ensure the local death management system continues to work effectively to protect public health and the dignity of the deceased. Personal choice will be respected as far as possible, especially in regard to how we handle loved ones after they have passed.

There is also a section on advice for employers and employees.

We continue to monitor the situation closely.  Please reach meet your Local Resilience Officer as a point of urgent action and ensure your funeral home is included in the local action plan.
Check the SAIF website members area for daily updates.

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