The APCC, Crematorium Society, FBCA and ICCM have issued a joint statement about the impact of the Coronavirus Act 2020 on the processes in relation to patient deaths both those caused by the virus as well as other deaths during the time of the pandemic.

To read the joint statement in full, click here.

In summary;

  • Registrars can send the disposal certificate to burial or cremation authorities via electronic means.

  • This covers electronic transfer of documents relating to the certification and registration process (e.g. transfer of the MCCD from the medical practitioner to the registrar and the form for burial or cremation, from the registrar to the relevant authority)

  • It is not envisaged that scanned documents should be received via a third party.

  • Under this arrangement these documents can be scanned or photographed and sent as an attachment, though a wet signature is still required on the original.

  • Disposal forms can be completed manually and similarly scanned or photographed for onward sending.

  • Registrars should engage to find an email address for the relevant authority (local burial and crematorium authority); which could be a local authority shared mailbox (as long as the relevant person at the crematorium or cemetery can access it) as well as an address for returning counterfoils.

  • After the emergency period, arrangements should be made to have all original forms sent to the register office to be processed in the normal manner.

Also;

  • The requirement to complete the confirmatory medical certificate (form Cremation 5) is suspended. Cremations should be authorised on the basis of form Cremation 4 only

  • Form Cremation 4 remains unchanged and a PDF version continues to be available on our website. It can be submitted electronically and an electronic signature includes being sent from the secure email account of the person completing the form Cremation 4.

  • The requirement for form Cremation 4 to be completed by the attending medical practitioner is suspended. Any medical practitioner can now complete form Cremation 4, even if they did not attend the deceased during their last illness or after death, if the following conditions are fulfilled:
              i. The medical practitioner who did attend the deceased is unable to sign the form Cremation 4 or it is         impractical for them to do so and,
              ii. A medical practitioner has seen the deceased (including audiovisual/video consultation) within 28 days before death, or has viewed the body in person after death

  • Examination of the body is not required for completion of form Cremation 4 if the deceased was seen by a medical practitioner (including audiovisual/video consultation) in the 28 days before death

  • When a medical practitioner who did not attend the deceased completes form Cremation 4, the following applies

  • Question 5. ‘Usual medical practitioner’. Where the certifying doctor did not themselves attend the patient either during their illness or after death, the certifying doctor should provide the GMC number and name of the medical practitioner who did attend at Question 9. This should also include the date when the deceased was seen and a report of the record made by the attending doctor
              ii. Question 6. ‘Not applicable’ is acceptable.
              iii. Question 7. ‘Not applicable’ is acceptable.

                  iv. Question 8. ‘Not applicable’ is acceptable.

  • As at (iii) above, if the form Cremation 4 is being completed on the basis of another medical practitioner having seen the deceased after death, the date, time and nature of their examination should be recorded at Question 9.

  • Any completed cremation forms 5 that you may receive will not form part of the application and there will be no duty to retain them.

  • There will be no need for a medical referee to re-authorise any cremation that they have already authorised under the arrangements which applied prior to implementation of the 2020 Act.

How Can I Ensure that Electronic Communications about Deaths Are Secure?

You should be provided with secure and recognised emails such as nhs.net or .gov but if there are times hen you are unsure about whether you can use the email address provided, contact your DPO and provide us with the email address and we will do a check for you.

When Should Deaths Be Referred?

Norfolk and Suffolk Coroners have written confirming that;

COVID-19 is a natural cause of death

COVID-19 is an acceptable underlying cause of death for the purposes of completing the Medical Certificate Cause of Death

COVID-19 is not a reason on its own to refer a death to the Coroner, despite the fact that COVID-19 is a notifiable disease under Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010.

  • The Norfolk Coroners are working from home which is making answering calls difficult. They are periodically monitoring their answerphone.

  • In an emergency, contact Mr Jes Fry (Norfolk) on 07917521526.

  • They are having difficulty contacting GPs directly. Please return calls from voicemails as soon as possible.

  • Please provide an email address that is monitored so that they can request necessary documents to move things along quickly.

For more information, see the letter from Norfolk and Suffolk Coroners.