Latest advice for funeral professionals – SAIF and NAFD updates
Funeral associations are receiving regular updates from Government with guidelines for the current pandemic. We will look to include the latest here whenever there is new information. The latest includes guidance for reintroducing limousine use; further SAIF guidance for funeral directors; fresh advice for Scotland and Wales; and DMAG guidance for burial and cremation authorities in England.
SAIF Update - 2 June
SAIF develops protocols and risk assessment for limousine use during the pandemic
SAIF, supported by the Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), has developed a new policy to help facilitate the reintroduction of limousines to funerals, provided certain conditions are met. It comes as acrylic dividing screens are made available by a range of suppliers to protect drivers from infection from passengers and vice versa. The policy, which covers advice on communicating with families, alighting, and vehicle cleaning procedures, can be downloaded here.
SAIF to consider lockdown advice as easing begins
In response to the Government's phased easing of the lockdown and the reduction in the number of excess fatalities, SAIF is currently considering further guidance for funeral directors and will update accordingly. In the current phase, the following measures are suggested:
- Review staffing requirements/working arrangements, taking account of annual leave/sickness and need to maintain social distancing in the workplace (teams may be exhausted after dealing with high numbers of services at the peak of the virus and may need time off to recover)
- Consider counselling/support for teams
- Reinstate normal service length (if this had been shortened to provide for more services per day)
- Remove extra service times – weekends, weekdays (if these had been introduced)
- Review number of mourners allowed using revised risk assessment
- Allow memorial masons to erect memorials – subject to social distancing
- Reopen cemeteries and crematorium grounds to normal opening hours
- Reinstate scattering/burial/placing of ashes where no witnesses are to be present
- Reinstate fees to usual amount (if these had been reduced to reflect reduced services)
- Liaise with local faith groups over plans to reopen places of worship
Scotland to refresh guidance on funerals
The Scottish Government has issued refreshed guidance on funerals today (2 June). There will be no substantive changes other than information about signposting people to Test and Protect, Scotland's track and trace system, as well as to information regarding face coverings, which may be used as a further precaution for people attending funerals. This can be viewed here.
Welsh Government ‘stay local’ policy
Meanwhile, the Welsh Government, which is operating a traffic light system for easing the lockdown restrictions, has announced a stay local policy to replace the previous stay at home requirements. This requires people to not travel more than five miles from home, however, there are exemptions, including funerals:
You are also allowed to visit a cemetery, burial ground or garden of remembrance to pay your respects, and to attend a funeral if you are invited by the person organising the funeral, or are the carer of a person attending the funeral. (Though this is subject to limits on numbers who can attend, in order to ensure that 2-metre distancing can be kept).
Further details can be found here.
Death Management Advisory Group guidance for burial and cremation authorities in England
DMAG has produced a guidance document for burial and cremation authorities in England, as restrictions are eased for crematoria and cemeteries.
“The list of measures in each stage is not necessarily exhaustive, and there will be local conditions to take account of. Authorities will need to be mindful of laws, regulations and Government guidance before introducing any changes or entering the different stages.
“The guidance document currently applies to England; Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own restrictions in place, although the suggested stages for cemeteries and crematoria would apply throughout the UK.”
18 May – NAFD update
Updated guidance on care of deceased with suspected or confirmed Covid-19
Following consultation with the NAFD and others, Public Health England has published an update to its guidance on care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus (Covid-19).
The updated guidance includes information on:
- the PPE required for activities involved in the management of the deceased (including those undertaken by funeral directors);
- clarification of the language on the risk assessment;
- with others where coronavirus (Covid-19) infection is suspected or confirmed in the deceased so that funeral directors and others can assess their risk appropriately; and
- guidance on where information should be shared.
The NAFD welcomes the greater clarity that this new update provides and also the introduction of the section on information sharing as this will further help funeral directors and their teams to work safely.
Download the guidance here
6 May - SAIF update
Government clarifies guidance on safe death verification
The Department of Health and Social Care has provided guidance designed to clarify existing practice for the verification of death outside of hospitals. The guidance also aims to provide a framework for safe verification of death in this coronavirus emergency period.
It is to be applied in all cases outside hospital when verification of death may be completed by people who have been trained to do so in line with their employer's policies.
Crucially, it states: "Non-medical professionals should not experience any pressure to verify deaths. If they are not comfortable or equipped to verify, they should defer to medical colleagues or refer on to NHS 111, the patient’s general practice or another provider of primary medical services. If they are content to verify, they can use remote clinical support."
New DMAG advice on body bags, PVC and coffin contents
The Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG) has issued new guidance on coffin contents following concerns about an increase in the use of PVC body bags. This can be downloaded here.
A key point of the guidance states that all crematoria are required to adhere to statutory Guidance on Cremation, referred to as Process Guidance Notes 5/2(12), which identifies a range of products that cannot be included in a cremation.
This list specifically requires that:
• PVC and melamine should not be used in coffin construction or furnishings
• Cardboard coffins should not contain chlorine in the wet strength agent
• (eg not using polyamidoamine-epichlorhydrin based resin (PAA-E))
• Packaging for stillbirth, neonatal and foetal remains should not include any
• Coffins containing lead or zinc should not be cremated
20 April – SAIF update
Advice on attendance at funerals from UK Government
Following clarification by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick on Saturday that "funerals can go ahead with close familiy present", the Government has issued updated guidance on managing services.
This does raise some significant matters for funeral directors and crematoria staff, therefore the Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), to which SAIF contributes, will be discussing guidelines this week.
The guidance issued at the weekend stated:
• mourners who are self-isolating for 14 days due to someone in their household being unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (Covid-19) but are not symptomatic themselves should be facilitated to attend the funeral in person should they wish to do so, with processes put in place to minimise the risk of transmission
• mourners who are clinically vulnerable or in a shielded group should also be facilitated to attend, with processes put in place to minimise the risk of transmission
• any mourner who is showing coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms (a new continuous cough or a high temperature) should not attend the funeral as they pose a risk to others; remote participation should be considered
Furthermore, the guidance requires venue managers to ensure that "handwashing facilities with soap and hot water and hand sanitiser are available." Enough time should also be allowed to clean and disinfect the service area before and after each service, and building ventilation should be maximised.
Further advice on care of deceased persons during the coronavirus pandemic is anticipated any day now. We will be sure to share this with you when available.
Funeral directors urged to minimise funeral delays
SAIF sincerely thanks members for your hard work under intense pressure brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. As funeral directors, you are the best people to oversee the death management process and it's important that we work together to ensure funerals are not held up or delayed.
There is a risk, however, with the commencement of provisions in the Coronavirus Act that allow local authorities to take control of the deceased management process, that any backlog in deceased persons awaiting burial or cremation could result in your local council taking control of funerals.
To help avoid this situation we ask members politely to be transparent with families about the availability of cremation slots and your ability to provide a funeral at the time a family wants.
SAIF encourages members to form pacts with other local firms to share the work and spread capacity across the system locally to avoid delays. Thank you for your support with this.
Beware social media trolls
A word of caution. SAIF members have rightly and with good intention swung behind the national movement to support the NHS in its biggest ever challenge. Many have made public displays of this support. SAIF urges funeral directors to take great care with any wording you use, be it in branch windows, on websites or social media. If you are publicly thanking the NHS, please be sure to explicitly state that it is for saving lives, as media trolls may seek to maliciously twist the meaning in order to portray funeral directors as benefiting from the crisis.
SAIF reminds care homes of their duty to disclose Covid-19 cases
In partnership with the Deceased Management Advisory Group, SAIF has written to a range of care home trade associations to urge their members to remember their duty of disclosure to funeral directors carrying out collections of deceased persons. The letter can be read here.
17 April – SAIF update
England: local authority death management powers
SAIF has received statutory guidance from the Government this evening covering the powers contained in the Coronavirus Act 2020 that allow local authorities to direct the death management process. This is an incredibly important document for funeral directors in England and we encourage SAIF members to study it carefully.
In our first reading of the information, we have summarised as follows:
• Local authorities will be requesting information about storage, staffing and transportation capacity and funeral directors are legally obliged to comply
• This information will inform whether the Government 'designates' a local authority, which in turn grants powers to the local authority to take control of the local death management process in order to address capacity shortages
• Crucially, the document stresses that a deceased's final wishes in terms of care, handling and burial or cremation preferences must be honoured
• Only in extreme circumstances can a local authority override these wishes and that can only happen following consultation of the community, faith and religious groups to rule out other mitigation options.
The guidance was accompanied by this letter from Simon Clarke MP, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, and addressed to the leaders of local authorities. The letter stresses that councils should have "due regard" for the deceased's wishes and stresses that the powers should only be used in "exceptional circumstances."
Body bags to be supplied to Local Resilience Forums
Local Resilience Forums (LRF) across England are to take delivery of a supply of body bags this weekend, according to the Department of Health and Social Care. Funeral directors are advised to make contact with your LRF representative to establish a supply for your funeral home. Separately, SAIF is attempting to establish whether these will also be delivered to Welsh LRFs and will update accordingly.
Coronavirus viability under refrigeration
During today's daily conference call with the Deceased Management Advisory Group, SAIF was informed by Public Health England that there is "currently no reliable data on how long" the Covid-19 virus can persist under refrigeration conditions. This should not preclude refrigeration and the body should be considered a potential source of infection while deceased individuals remain in the care environment, whether refrigerated or not. Therefore, the appropriate PPE should be worn when handling the deceased.
SAIF issues advice to families facing restricted funerals
To help families find meaningful ways to say goodbye in this period of funeral restrictions, SAIF has produced a set of ideas and tips which can be downloaded here.
Members are encouraged to post the content, which can be printed out or emailed to families, on their websites and social media channels.
Scotland: central resource for PPE to be created
Scottish SAIF Government Liason Officer Joe Murren has advised that PPE for non-health key workers has become a top priority, following a video conference with the Scottish Government this morning. The authorities are looking to establish a central resource that funeral directors will be able to access. Scottish SAIF is considering how best it can assist with this to ensure supplies are delivered to those who need them. Watch this space for further information.
Scotland: grant funding for funeral directors
Scottish funeral directors may be eligible for grant funding of up to £10,000 if they are in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme. Further details can be found here.
* Funeral directors in the rest of the UK, please note that SAIF is seeking clarification about the possibility of similar types of support, and will be pursuing this over the course of next week.
16 April – SAIF update
Updated funerals and handling deceased persons guidance expected
A representative of Public Health England joined the Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG) daily conference call today and informed the group that revised guidance on attendance at funerals and handling deceased persons with Covid-19 is due to be issued in the coming days. DMAG will be given sight of drafts of both sets of advice for input ahead of publication.
We also learnt that Public Health England's latest understanding of Sars-CoV-2 is that the virus can remain present on surfaces for up to 72 hours but after this time is unlikely to be viable. As ever, SAIF recommends members take a precautionary approach at all times when handling infected deceased persons and during contacts with relatives of deceased persons.
DMAG letter to Local Resilience Forums
SAIF, in partnership with the Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), has created a set of guidelines for Local Resilience Forums (LRF). We strongly encourage members who are in regular contact with their LRF to share the document with relevant people. The guidance, which concerns planning for the removal, transportation, and storage of the deceased under emergency measures triggered by the Secretary of State, can be downloaded here.
DWP seeks to speed up SFFP process
SAIF has been advised that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is working to speed up the decision and payment process for the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment. By adopting a simplified scrutiny protocol, the Department aims to reduce payment processing from 30 to 15 days. We will advise when we know more about this.
Webinar: employment law in the time of coronavirus
Members who were unable to attend today's webinar by employment solicitor Jonathan Rennie have a chance to watch again here. We highly recommend viewing, as the session contains specific and useful information for business owners and managers about legal HR issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic. Please forward this email to the relevant senior people within your teams.
14 April - SAIF update
Guidance on handling Covid-19 deceased persons
During a conference call today with the Deceased Management Advisory Group, SAIF received news that Public Health England will be reviewing its guidance on handling Covid-19-infected deceased persons at the end of the week.
Consequently, SAIF's guidance to members with regard to Covid-19 cases remains:
• PPE (apron, gloves, mask and eye goggles if possible)
• Body bags for removing the deceased
• Viewing (none should take place as the virus can remain viable for up 72 hours and therefore body bags should not be opened)
• Exercise caution with regard to relatives who could be carriers of the virus
Social distancing should be practised at all times between colleagues, clients and any third parties.
Incidentally, the Welsh Government has issued supplementary advice on social distancing in the workplace and this can be viewed here.
We aim to update this Friday (17 April) with news of Public Health England's latest advice, if available.
A note on verification of death
SAIF continues to receive reports of GPs who believe that funeral directors are authorised to verify death. We want to categorically state that you are not authorised to do this.
The Department of Health and Social Care is in the process of drafting national guidance to ensure consistent adherence to the rules by GPs and NHS 111 and we will share these when published.
The competent persons are doctors, nurses and paramedics, and deaths have to be verified by one of these professionals.
Webinar: employment law in the time of coronavirus
SAIF is pleased to secure employment solicitor Jonathan Rennie for a timely webinar on HR law in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Taking place at 2pm on Thursday 16 April, Jonathan will cover the following business-critical topics:
• The Furlough Scheme & the Government Job Retention Scheme
• Restructuring and changes to employment contracts (terms and conditions)
• Redundancy, lay-offs and short time working
• Health & safety issues; whistleblowing.
He is also able to answer any questions you might have and you are invited to email these to: email@example.com by 10am on Thursday 16 April. We will share details of how to register tomorrow.
SAIF Business Centre
National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)
Stay Home - Protect the NHS - Save Lives
10 April - NAFD update
The NAFD have launched a new website specifically relating to COVID-19 updates, and have also reassured funeral directors that they are on the list for testing, as emergency responders.
The association has been keen to get up to date information from members, in order to press for the right support from Government. They commented “You told us that as many as 1 in 5 (20%) of your essential operational employees are unavailable to you at present due to illness, shielding or for other reasons. We are pleased to confirm that the Government has told us that funeral firms are on the list for COVID-19 testing, as it is rolled out across the workforce and that it considers you to be emergency responders.”
The association also reiterated Public Health England guidance on funerals, urging firms to work with families to ensure there were not delays, so that the sector as a whole can cope with increased numbers of deaths.
“We advise you to to tell families that it is not clear when it will be possible to lift the restrictions and some aspects of them may remain in force for many months. Indeed, the law allows for the restrictions to last for up to two years. It is also possible that restrictions may be tightened further and funerals may take place with no mourners permitted to attend. For all of these reasons, families are advised to work with funeral directors to arrange a small, immediate family funeral service now and a larger memorial service or celebration of life at a later date.”
NAFD President David Barrington has also issued a letter to members, encouraging them to keep going under pressure, adhere to advice to key workers and to continue to serve families. You can read it here.
9 April - SAIF update
Scotland closes crematoria to public access
In line with coronavirus health protection rules, the Scottish Government closed crematoria to visitors except for funeral services on Wednesday 8 April. This includes burial grounds that are within the grounds of a crematorium. Other burial grounds remain open at the operator's discretion.
Additionally in Scotland, attendees of funeral services are now limited to members of the deceased's household, close family members, or alternatively a close friend of the deceased. Full details are available here.
N Ireland: Department for Communities Funeral Expenses Payment increases
SAIF is informed that the increase in the Funeral Expenses Payment from £700 to £1,000 took place in Northern Ireland on 6 April. The payment will apply to deaths that occur from that date onwards. Further details can be found here. In England and Wales, the payment increased on 8 April, and Scotland on the 1st.
Cabinet Office confirms funeral directors eligible for PPE via LRFs
SAIF took part in a Cabinet Office call today during which it was confirmed that funeral directors are considered emergency/key workers and are therefore eligible to receive PPE. This is being distributed by Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) although supplies may not have reached many as yet. We encourage members to stay in close contact with your LRF to ensure you are able to access supplies when available.
If you encounter any issues with this system, please contact the SAIF Business Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, the members' area of the SAIF website includes a list of suppliers of protective items, should your stocks require replenishing.
PPE advice from Public Health England awaited
SAIF members may be aware that Public Health England has this week issued enhanced protective equipment guidance for health and social care workers. The main points are:
• enhanced PPE recommendations for a wide range of health and social care contexts
• inclusion of individual and organisational risk assessment at local level to inform PPE use
• recommendation of single sessional (extended) use of some PPE items
• re-usable PPE can be used. Advice on suitable decontamination arrangements should be obtained from the manufacturer, supplier or local infection control
• guidance for when case status is unknown and SARS-CoV-2 is circulating at high levels
• recommendation on patient use of facemasks
SAIF, along with the Deceased Management Advisory Group, has written to PHE Chief Executive Duncan Selbie for clarification on a number of issues relating to guidance on handling deceased persons with Covid-19. We will be sure to update you as soon as we hear from Mr Selbie and PHE.
Webcasts – caution required
SAIF members are reminded that webcasting technology at crematoria and other funeral service venues is likely to be continuously running before and after funeral services. Therefore it is important that funeral staff refrain from any non-work related conversation for the entire time they are in a chapel or service venue, as you may have an external audience listening to your comments.
Webinar – effectively managing your funeral business amid Covid-19
SAIF Executive member Liam Roberts shared his company’s experiences of the current situation and the issues he is facing in a webinar with members today. If you missed it, it can be viewed again here.
Liam has been a member of SAIF’s Executive Committee since the 2019 AGM. He works at Southgate & Roberts Funeral Directors in Ipswich.
7 April – SAIF update
PPE to be distributed by local resilience forums
Following close discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care, SAIF has learnt that PPE is to be distributed to funeral directors via Local Resilience Forum (LRF)s in England and Wales. If you haven't made contact with your LRF, we strongly encourage you to do so, as they are likely to be in the process of issuing important information, for example this document from Surrey LRF, which details how multidisciplinary teams across deceased management are to work together in the coming weeks.
DWP Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment to increase
The long-awaited increase in the Funeral Expenses Payment from £700 to £1,000 will happen tomorrow (Wednesday, 8 April) in England and Wales. The payment, which will apply to deaths that occur from 8 April onwards, is there to help cover the cost of funeral directors' fees and items such as coffins and flowers. Scotland's increase to the same amount happened on 1 April.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has also informed SAIF that the "internal claim process has been streamlined in order to be able to make payments more quickly, with further streamlining options being pursued." SAIF members are reminded that the DWP doesn't have to have a final invoice or need to know the date of funeral to be able to process a claim – instead, a signed contract can be accepted.
SAIF to speak to Cabinet Office Thursday morning on coronavirus
SAIF will join representatives of the funeral sector in a briefing with the Government's Cabinet Office on 9th April to discuss a range of matters relating to the coronavirus pandemic. We will be raising the issue of hospital duties of disclosure around informing funeral directors whether a deceased person being collected from a public mortuary had Covid-19. We will also be talking about data monitoring in the context of funeral sector mortuary capacity to ensure the system remains free-flowing as funerals increase in the coming weeks.
Webinar – effectively managing your funeral business amid Covid-19
This webinar is designed to help you successfully steer your funeral business through the uncertain and fast-changing situation we’re all facing, thanks to Covid-19.
SAIF Executive member Liam Roberts will share his company’s experiences of the current situation and the issues he is facing. Liam has been a member of SAIF’s Executive Committee since the 2019 AGM. He works at Southgate & Roberts Funeral Directors in Ipswich.
Liam will also respond to members’ questions which can be emailed prior to the webinar. To submit a question email Angela Camp by 10am on Thursday 9 April.
CLICK HERE to register for the webinar.
6 April – SAIF update
DMAG issues updated advice on funeral gatherings
The Deceased Management Advisory Group has issued updated guidance on funeral gatherings. It states that only members of the deceased's household should attend a service, along with close family members. It is also possible for a modest number of close friends to attend but it's important to stress that social distancing guidelines must be adhered to at all times, with mourners from different households remaining at least two metres apart. People who are at-risk from coronavirus complications or who are self-isolating should not attend a funeral. Please be aware that this advice is subject to change.
New guidance from the Welsh authorities on funeral gatherings
The Welsh Government has produced new guidance for local authorities in Wales in respect of funerals. It states that people are allowed to leave their home for the purposes of arranging a funeral, however, SAIF is mindful that many if not all funeral directors are now conducting arrangements by phone or video conference call. Funerals must also be limited to only those who are invited. Arrangements should be put in place by crematoria to ensure people arriving at a funeral service remain a minimum distance of two metres apart. Please study the document if you are a Welsh funeral director or arrange cross-border funerals from England.
Scottish Government asks funeral directors to register with information service
Many SAIF Scotland members will have received a card from the Scottish Government advising funeral directors to visit blogs.gov.scot/funeral-industry for the latest updates from the authorities in relation to coronavirus. Scot Gov is also encouraging funeral directors to register here to receive information about statutory changes that are to be introduced over the next two to three years as part of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016.
Separately, the Scottish Government on Wednesday this week (April 8) will be "relaxing arrangements around who can arrange a funeral, as well as suspending the duties in relation to handling ashes that are normally placed on funeral directors, cremation authorities and local authorities." Specifically, this means the suspension of:
• the offence in section 49 of the 2016 Act in relation to who can apply for a funeral. This means that anyone in the hierarchy can make the arrangements, regardless of where they are placed in the hierarchy (sections 65 and 66 of the 2016 Act).
• the duties for handling ashes by cremation authorities and funeral directors. All will be required to retain all ashes for the suspension period, unless they are able to be collected by the applicant. Once the suspension is lifted, the normal duties will resume for retained ashes.
• the requirement for local authorities to make enquiries under s87 of the 2016 Act to make attempts to ascertain what is to happen to ashes following cremation. The local authority will be required to retain the ashes for the duration of the suspension and then attempt, when the suspension is lifted, to trace family members.
There will be an announcement on blogs.gov.scot/funeral-industry and SAIF will update members accordingly.
London Resilience - advice to families of persons who have died of coronavirus in the community
London Resilience has published a guide that is issued to families of deceased persons who have been attended by a Pandemic Multiagency Response Team (PMART) in the event of a death at home. Whilst the language is incredibly direct, it contains useful information about death registration – also note the instructions not to touch the deceased. We advise members across the UK to study the document.
Updated pandemic deceased management guidance
SAIF members will be interested in the latest advice for local authorities titled Managing the Deceased During a Pandemic: Guidance for planners in England. This is an updated version of the original general guidance published in 2008. It was drafted before the Coronavirus Act gained Royal Assent last month.
As a result, a number of the potential measures referenced in this guidance have since come into effect via commencement orders. This means it should be read alongside the guidance published in support of those specific measures now in effect and other recent guidance specific to COVID-19. A list of these with hyperlinks is included in the beginning of the document.
Some members may have already seen this guidance, as it has been made available to local resilience forums and their constituent planners with instructions to share with those responsible locally for managing the deceased. Please take the time to study the document.
UK cremation capacity figures released
Following a request from the Cabinet Office, the Institute for Cemetery and Crematorium Management and Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities, via the Deceased Management Advisory Group, have issued statistics showing the nation's capacity to conduct cremations over the coming weeks. It shows that the system has the ability to cope with increased deaths, however, it's important the funerals are not delayed, as any bottleneck could affect projected capacity.
Based on all of the calls we have received and media enquiries we have responded to, we've pulled together these Frequently Asked Questions to help you in your conversations with bereaved families.
If we need to update the guide, we will post any revisions on our advice page for funeral directors, as well as on the public advice page of our website. The NAFD website is large and so we are currently working on a dedicated COVID-19 website so we can communicate information as easily as possible. We'll keep you posted on a launch date, but we hope this will be within 10 days.
Tell us once – supporting families with death registration
For members in England and Wales, as you know the Government’s Tell Us Once service is a free, cross-government service designed to support bereaved citizens. It enables them to report a verified death to multiple local and central government organisations in one go.
As funeral directors have now been given the power to register deaths on behalf of families where family-members aren’t in a position to do so themselves, the Government would like to ask for your assistance.
Following a death registration, the Registrar will provide a printout containing a unique Tell Us Once service reference number. This will enable the family to securely access the service and inform relevant organisations of the death.
Please click the links below for various versions of the Tell Us Once flyer.
And finally …
This is our third Friday update to you, summarising the week’s developments in the COVID-19 outbreak. Today, we like to thank you for all the support you are giving us, particularly by responding in huge numbers to the surveys we are sending out.
We are using what you tell us to brief government and to shape our media comments and strategy. Our twin objectives remain to make sure we support you in every way we can – and to make sure your role and compassion as a profession is never forgotten in all of this.
That’s why we’re working so hard to field interviewees for every media story or contribute written statements. We are working hard to be the voice of the profession at this difficult time and to ensure that politicians, the media and the public can see and understand how invaluable your contribution is to the national effort.
Don't forget, NAFD members have access to the well-being support line provided in association with Professional Help Ltd, so if you're not feeling yourself and would like to talk it through, please do give them a call. Details are via the link below.
Stay safe and get some rest,
The NAFD team
How to access support for yourself and your staff
PPE supplies decision expected next week
SAIF understands through its work with the Deceased Management Advisory Group that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock is due to provide news to funeral directors next week in respect of PPE supplies.
Separately, SAIF has learnt that PPE may be channelled through the Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) in England and Wales. As such, if you are yet to make contact with your LRF, we strongly advise you to reach out to your local LRF SAIF representative who will be able to assist. If your LRF is without a SAIF representative, please contact the SAIF Business Centre at email@example.com. SAIF has written to all LRFs to ensure independent funeral directors are involved with local responses to Covid-19 excess deaths.
Public Health England asked for clarification about body bags
The Deceased Management Advisory Group has again written to Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, requesting further clarification about a range of important issues relating to the handling and care of deceased persons with Covid-19. These include regional differences in body bag advice, viewing, refrigeration, and risks from body fluid spills. The letter can be read in full here.
Confusion around verification of community deaths
Following the commencement of the Coronavirus Act, a grey area has emerged around who is able to verify a death in the community ahead of an MCCD being issued by a doctor. The new rules say that a doctor who attended (in person, by phone or video conference call) to the patient within the 28 days (previously 14 days) leading up to the death may issue the certificate. If no doctor has attended a patient for more than 28 days then the certifying medical practitioner is required to communicate with a coroner for permission to issue a 100A form.
For the avoidance of doubt, if a doctor doesn't attend then currently only a nurse or suitably trained ambulance clinician is able to confirm a death. The Patient website is a useful resource and is certified to meet NHS England's information standard. This page includes details of death verification procedures. Funeral directors are not listed as competent persons in terms of those who can confirm a death, so we advise members to politely decline such requests from third parties when carrying out removals from care homes or private properties. Further details about issuing the MCCD post Coronavirus Act can be viewed here.
SAIF Business Centre
Deceased Management Advisory Group seeks clarity from Public Health England
The Deceased Management Advisory Group is seeking clarification from Public Health England on the issue of handling Covid-19 deceased persons, with specific concerns about inconsistencies in advice relating to viewings issued earlier this week. We are treating this as a matter of urgency and will update as soon as possible. Again, we reiterate our advice to take precautions. Please see the coronavirus section in the members' area of the SAIF website for further details.
Lobbying for coronavirus testing for funeral directors
SAIF, through the Deceased Management Advisory Group, is petitioning for funeral directors to be tested for Covid-19 to help ensure minimal disruption to businesses from staff who may be self-isolating after showing symptoms of coronavirus. Testing would allow vital members of staff to get back to work sooner.
Hospital mortuaries and care homes
SAIF is concerned about reports that some hospital mortuaries and care homes are refusing or failing to notify funeral directors that deceased are Covid-19 cases during collections. We'll be taking this up with relevant authorities and will report back soon.
Ministry of Justice / General Register Office green forms update
The Ministry of Justice has issued the following advice to registration officers:
• Covid-19 is an acceptable, direct or underlying cause of death for the purposes of completing the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD)
• Covid-19 is not a reason on its own to refer a death to a coroner under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, nor should it be referred under the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987 (unless there is some other reason for the referral).
• That Covid-19 is a notifiable disease under the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010 does not mean referral to a coroner is required by virtue of its notifiable status (this requires that the medical practitioner separately notifies Public Health England).
For clarity, the recording of “Probable Covid-19” or “Possible Covid-19” as the cause of death is not acceptable on its own. However, when accompanied by an acceptable cause of death in part 1 of the MCCD it can be accepted for registration without need for referral.
If the doctor has used such a term, without the support of another acceptable cause of death then, during the emergency period, rather than immediately reporting to the coroner registrars should firstly try to seek a fresh MCCD from the doctor. Further advice should be sought from General Register Office (GRO) in respect of any issues or difficulties relating to this issue.
Separately, the Office for National Statistics and GRO have further updated the Covid-19 emergency guidance for doctors completing Medical Certificates of Cause of Death in England and Wales (for use during the emergency period only) and this can be found here.
There is also guidance here from the GRO, stating that green forms may be issued electronically to funeral directors, i.e. to a company email address.
Scotland members: Applications for cremation – temporary change with immediate effect
In response to difficulties in obtaining signatures from those applying for cremation due to social distancing and Covid-19 self-isolation, the Scottish authorities have issued a supplementary form to be used with immediate effect by funeral directors.
SAIF is informed that cremation authorities will still have the right to ask for additional information about the application, but should accept the supplementary form in place of a signature from the applicant.
Please note that it is not appropriate for funeral directors to sign the cremation application form. This signature section should be left blank and the supplementary form should be completed instead. Funeral directors should keep an audit trail that clearly shows the instructions on the application form are those of the applicant.
From the Death Management Advisory Group (DMAG) website: The Government has released guidance for care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.
Death Management Advisory Group
Information on a video conference including representatives of the Scottish Government is available from here: http://www.dmag2020.org/dmag-update-1-4-20/
The Northern Ireland Health Board has released guidance for Funeral Directors on handling the deceased.
Guidance has been developed by the Department of Health, in conjunction with the Public Health Agency (PHA) and the National Association of Funeral Directors (NI Federation), to assist Funeral Directors in managing infection risks when handling deceased individuals with COVID-19.
SAIF infection control risk assessment
SAIF's health and safety specialist Simon Bloxham has prepared an updated set of infection risk control guidelines for funeral homes in the wake of the Government's latest advice, released yesterday. We stress that it's important members take precautions and note that the Government's advice is guidance rather than a statutory requirement. On Thursday (2 April) SAIF (with the Deceased Management Advisory Group) has a Cabinet Office conference call where we shall continue to request clarity for funeral directors on removing Covid-19 deceased.
SURVEY: Tell us your operating capacity and PPE requirements
SAIF is asking all members to participate in this short but important survey to help us gauge how best to direct PPE, and understand funeral home capacity levels to ensure independent funeral directors are involved in the response to mass fatalities. It's absolutely vital that all members participate. Click here to complete the survey.
Guidance for doctors regarding changes to completion of MCCDs, and form Cremation 5 introduced by the Coronavirus Act, has been published today. Click here to view.
Watch SAIF President's Coronavirus Webinar
If you missed National SAIF President Mark Porteous's webinar today, it is available to watch again in the member's area of the SAIF website. Mark was asked a range of questions, the answers to which may be of use to you.
A reminder of support available to small businesses
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Government is implementing a range of support for small businesses. If you are facing trading difficulties at present, it is important to be aware of available help. Further information can be found here and measures include:
• a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
• deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
• a Self-employment Income Support Scheme
• a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
• a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
• small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
• grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
• the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
• a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
• the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme
This is a preview of a feature article.
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