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Deceased Patients, Funeral Directors and Cremation Update

There have been a number of queries concerning GP obligations in respect of dealing with crematoriums and we wanted to provide a reminder to practices of the contractual position.

There is no statutory obligation to complete a cremation form and no statutory fee, it is up to the GP to charge what is appropriate and this will cover both time and travel costs. GPs do not have to physically see the body after death to complete the part 4 cremation forms. GPs do need to complete the forms legibly and it is then up to the medical referee of the particular crematorium to decide whether to accept the form or not. Funeral Directors are not part of this process and cannot make demands directly to the GP.

Crematoriums can legally refuse to accept a form that is illegible but cannot refuse to accept a form because they don’t like the legible written content. They have to decide whether the information on the forms is sufficient for the body to be cremated. It is their decision alone. Any consequence arising from their refusing to accept a form is theirs (delay, anguish for the family, extra fees etc). If they refuse to accept a form then it will have to be replaced by another that is acceptable to them, i.e. one written after the body has been seen.

We’re are also hearing nationally, that there is an increasing problem of funeral directors refusing to move the body of a deceased patient to a local funeral director when the patient has died out of area. If the body is out of area then contact the medical referee of the relevant crematorium, explain the situation and suggest you complete the forms indicating in the relevant boxes why you were unable to see the body after death. This is legally allowable, there is no legal reason why they should not accept this.