Cremation fees scrapped in death certificate revamp

Cremation fees have been scrapped in the overhaul
Cremation fees have been scrapped in the overhaul

Changes to the death certification system brought in after the case of mass-murdering GP Harold Shipman come into effect today.

Scotland is the first part of the UK to implement legislation designed to improve the quality and accuracy of death certificates and prevent any malpractice.

Maureen Watt. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Maureen Watt. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Under the Certification of Death Act, passed by the Scottish Parliament, relatives will have the right to request a review of the information on death certificates if they have any concerns.

An independent team at Healthcare Improvement Scotland will carry out any reviews, with some death certificates randomly checked to ensure that the information is correctly recorded.

The legislation will also end the requirement for bereaved families to pay about £170 for cremation forms, saving grieving relatives around £5.5 million each year.

Public health minister Maureen Watt said: “Dealing with the death of a loved one is a difficult and traumatic experience.

“It can also be an expensive process, so I’m pleased that we have been able to improve the system and abolish cremation fees.

“It’s important that the death certification process is rigorous. The recorded information should be both correct and sufficiently detailed that can improve future health care for families and communities.

“By improving the certification process we can ensure this continues to be the case.

“In the rare cases where a family has concerns or complaints about what has been included on the death certificate, it’s entirely right that they should be able to request a review.

“For that reason, we have introduced a right to an independent review of the death certificate.”

Families will also be offered help, including financial assistance, to arrange for a post-mortem examination when a death has occurred abroad.