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March 2022

Changes to Medical Certification for Cremation

Changes to Medical Certification for Cremation

A Memorandum was recently published by the Ministry of Justice and laid before Parliament on 4th March 2022 to remove the requirement of a confirmatory medical certificate to be issued when a cremation application is made in England or Wales. This means that medical certification fees, required for cremation, will continue to be £82.00; this charge is only applicable in England and Wales (it is not payable in Scotland) and does not apply when a post mortem has taken place.

In brief, during the Coronavirus pandemic, the Coronavirus Act 2020 (the ‘2020 Act’) implemented set out a requirement for any cremation in England or Wales that took place the deceased required a confirmatory medical certificate in addition to a medical certificate given by a registered medical practitioner giving the cause of death before the cremation took place.

Before the ‘2020 Act’, a medical certificate and a confirmatory medical certificate were required in most cases before a cremation could take place which incurred a charge of £164.00.  A medical practitioner, registered for no less than five years and independent from the medical practitioner who completed the medical certificate, would have to be completed.   These certificates, together with the cremation application, would allow a medical referee to authorise a cremation for the deceased.  

As we enter a ‘living with Covid-19 plan’, this legislation to help support death management across the health sectors is due to come to an end, if passed by Parliament, on 24th March 2022 the ‘2008 Regulations’ (an amendment to The Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2022) will be reverted to.

In short, if the Health and Care Bill is passed, the confirmatory medical certificate (also known as form Cremation 5) that has been in place since 25th March 2020 will become obsolete from 25th March 2022 onwards (which includes the scrutiny of the medical examiner at the outset of the process to certify a death).  It should be noted that the non-statutory system for a medical examiner remains in place in acute settings as well as the system being currently implemented to non-acute settings. 

The change may see an interim period between the expiry of the ‘2020 Act’ and the implementation of the statutory medical examiner system and the Government has noted that by temporarily reintroducing form Cremation 5 it could cause confusion and disruption so, for any concerns raised during this time, each case will be reviewed by the Ministry of Justice as appropriate.

A consultation process on the proposed reforms took place and included a number of settings such as the NHS, social care organisations, local and central government bodies, the public, bereavement services, the funeral industry, professional and regulatory bodies religious or faith groups, coroner services, healthcare professionals and registration services.  The majority of those that were consulted were in favour of introducing statutory medical examiners and making the confirmatory medical certificate redundant.

Further guidance for applicants, crematorium managers, funeral directors, medical practitioners and medical referees can be found here with the revised guidance due to be published on 25th March 2022.

Independent funeral directors and crematoria are affected by the amended regulations because they require medical certificates to be completed in order that a medical referee can authorise cremation.  Individual medical practitioners and private medical practices ware affected indirectly and may experience loss of fee income from no longer having confirmatory medical certificates as a requirement. 

The Cremation (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 can be viewed here with the Explanatory Memorandum here.


Funeral Plan Market™ featured in The Guardian

Planning your funeral

We are delighted to have featured in The Guardian's article - Wills and trusts: how to plan your finances for when you're gone

Making financial arrangements and pre-planning your funeral has to be the most prudent thing a person can do before the inevitable happens.

By tying up loose ends and making sure a person has something in writing may be important and the most well received act they can do for their loved ones that they leave behind so that their family can have peace of mind, knowing that the deceased person’s final wishes have been met.

A pre-paid funeral is considered the most cost effective investment a person can make.

Funeral prices have increased year on year, with geographical location a factor.  With the cost of a funeral doubling in the last 12 years, by paying for a pre-paid funeral in advance it will fix the cost at today’s price with the reassurance that the money laid down on the plan is secure because it is safeguarded against any cost increases that are inevitable in the future, as the prices of funerals continue to rise.

The benefit of planning for a pre-paid funeral allows a person’s wishes to be carried out exactly as they had wanted, it takes some of the overwhelm and stress of those they leave behind so they do not have to make difficult choices that they may not necessarily feel comfortable in making.  This allows them to focus on grieving, rather than making final arrangements, for their loved one at an already emotional and difficult time.

There are many types of funeral that can be pre-planned and pre-paid for and with so much choice as to how a person wants to approach their final arrangements, it is open for them to opt for exactly what they want.

Direct cremation is the most cost effective service and allows the deceased to be cremated with no one in attendance but, instead, their ashes being returned to their loved ones so that they can choose how to celebrate their loved one when they wish and precisely in their own way.

Clearly, it is a personal choice as to how the final arrangements are carried out for anybody, so it is worth knowing exactly what can be offered and how much money can be saved by doing so.

Funeral Plan Market have a range of options that can suit a range of preferences and financial budgets and it is important that the person investing in a pre-paid funeral does so with confidence.

February 2022

Funeral Plan Market™ is awarded Feefo Gold Trusted Service Award 2022

Feefo Gold Trusted Service Award 2022

We are as pleased as you to have been awarded the Feefo Gold Trusted Service Award 2022!

In case you are asking ‘What is the Feefo award and why is it awarded?’ we thought it might be useful to provide you with a little more detail about Feefo’s Trusted Service Awards.

The Feefo Trusted Service Awards are presented to businesses annually.  

The awards aren’t given away lightly.  Businesses that receive an award must demonstrate outstanding service to their customers.  What is significant about the Feefo Trusted Service Awards is that the winners are decided purely based on the ratings businesses receive from their very own customers that have experienced the customer service directly provided.

In order to win the Feefo Gold Trusted Service 2022 award, Funeral Plan Market had to collect at least 50 reviews between 1st January 2020 and 31st December 2021, all of which had to achieve a Feefo service rating of at least 4.5 out of 5.  No mean feat!

Having been awarded the Feefo Gold Trusted Service Award 2022 it gives the customer confidence in knowing that what you get from Funeral Plan Market is a demonstrated and dedicated first class service that only the best customers deserve.  

We pride ourselves in offering only the highest quality service and because the Feefo Gold Trusted Service Award 2022 has been presented to us based upon the reviews left by real customers, you can be assured that it is genuine and that means so much more to us that it is!

However, you can be sure that just because we have won this year’s award we won’t rest on our laurels.

We are determined to be awarded the Feefo Gold Trusted Service Award year on year because we have now set our sights on the Platinum Trusted Service award, a noteworthy achievement that we are confident in obtaining with further hard work, dedication and commitment to our customers.

It is important to us that our reliability of being able to deliver an excellent product and service continues to be acknowledged.  Our professionalism will always be at the forefront of what we do, strengthening our credibility and keeping excellent service the main focus.  

Funeral Plan Market recognises that a customer chooses a service provider and product for the experience and quality they receive.  

Customer reviews are often what makes the difference between a potential customer choosing us over a competitor and our ultimate objective is to get the best funeral service for you and your family.

As long as we provide the best service we can, we are doing what we aim to do.

January 2022

Summary of SunLife’s Cost of Dying 2022 Report

What does SunLife's 2022 Report tell us about dying?

It provides a comprehensive view of what funerals cost now and the attitudes that funerals have created over the years.

This summary is based on the inclusion of a fair spread of funeral directors between June and August 2021 in the UK and individuals who have had been responsible for organising funeral within the last four years but interviewed between June and July 2021.

The trends of funeral prices, the total cost of dying and the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had is included in this summary.

Since SunLife commenced their research in 2004, the cost of funerals decreased in 2021 at an average of £128 with a basic funeral down by 3.1%.

The Cost of Dying

The total cost of dying includes the professional fees, the funeral service itself and the ‘extras’ such as a wake has decreased by 4.3% since 2020,  the first time since 2015; and despite this, the average cost of dying in 2021 was reported at over £8,800. 

Of this total, the majority of the cost of dying in the UK is attributed to funeral costs which amounts to 45.8% with professional fees dropping most, down 8.7% since 2020.

Burial, Cremation and Direct Cremation

Whilst the cost of burials and cremations have decreased since 2020, they remain the most expensive funeral option and although the cost of direct cremation has increased by 6% since 2020, it remains the cheapest option of the three.

The costs of funerals are dependent of UK location with the most expensive place to die being London, and Northern Island being the most affordable.

Funeral costs rose more steeply and are above the national average in London, South East and East of England, Yorkshire and the Humber and East and West Midlands.

The Send-Off

Sending someone off unsurprisingly dropped in 2021 due to the restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the drop of 1.9% in price since 2020 is a welcomed change to those spending money on a wake or celebratory send-off.

Catering for this event has shown the biggest drop with costs decreasing by 9.8% whilst order sheets realised the biggest increase at 11.7% since 2020.

These extra costs have been mitigated due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and not being able to provide the send-off people would have planned ordinarily.

The Future of Funerals

Cremations are the preferred option for funerals, with the 73% majority choice for people between February 2020 and July 2021, whilst burials made up 27% during the same period.

There has been a significant increase of direct cremations with just 3% of all funerals in 2019 being direct cremations and 2021 witnessing another increase and recording 24% of direct cremations representing the type of funeral between February 2020 to July 2021.

With 18% of all funerals in the last four years being direct cremations, the cost savings on preparation of the body, flowers, limousines and so on have been realised and a wide recognition of direct cremations of 64% of people are acknowledged. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has been one reason given for the choice of direct cremations being chosen, with memorial services being organised after restrictions being lifted. 

The Covid-19 Pandemic

Funerals were affected significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic with much fewer attendees and the measures in place led to cut backs that would have taken place had there been no pandemic.

Almost all funeral directors felt affected by the Covid-19 pandemic with 53% feeling unsupported by the government. 

Some funeral directors felt the inability to demonstrate the compassion they would usually demonstrate towards grieving families challenged them significantly.  Coupled with not being able to communicate face to face at times, not being able to allow the families of the deceased to see their loved ones because they were in a sealed coffin presented emotional challenges they were not used to.

The socially distanced funerals added to the emotional heartache felt by professionals knowing that they and the clergy could not do what they ordinarily did in ‘normal’ circumstances.

The Future

Funeral directors foresee virtual funerals (through webcasts, recordings and so on) becoming more popular, together with smaller funerals, direct cremations and less elaborate funerals taking place in the long-term.

Paying for Funerals

Savings and investments made up the largest percentage of how people paid for funerals in 2020 and 2021.  Only 63% of people had saved enough money to cover the full cost of their funeral since 2020.

Families felt financially concerned and ran into difficulties due to the cost of a funeral they had to pay for in 2021 and, similarly to 2020, they had to find £1,800 on average to cover the costs of a funeral they were planning.

Some elements of a funeral’s costs surprised 20% of people including: embalming, the funeral director, coffin and flower costs.

Although less than 20% of people looked at obtaining different quotes for funerals, 54% of funeral directors reported that they had noticed a trend in people obtaining quotes from competitors.  It is suggested that the deceased had chosen the funeral director they wished to arrange their matters and this might be the reasoning for a low percentage of people ‘shopping around’.

Despite the cost of dying dropping in 2021, half of people planning a funeral still tried to cut cost further but felt pressure to get things right.

Reported by 50% of people planning a funeral, money was saved by buying a cheaper coffin, spending less on flowers and holding the wake at home.  Further to this, 6% of people didn’t think a death notice, order of service or ashes box was necessary.  Insurance helped some people cover a funeral’s costs.

However, funeral directors saw a trend in people regretting they chose not to pay for a burial (rather than a cremation), using their own vehicle rather than a limousine and professional service and ordering a coffin online.

Tips

  • To reduce funeral costs further, obtaining a few quotes is beneficial.
  • Undue pressure felt by the person planning a funeral should be avoided. What feels right is likely to be right.
  • Understand what your loved one wants before they die so that costs don’t escalate.
  • The funeral director can do most things if asked early enough. Get advice from them.
  • Shop for a funeral before it is needed. As a standard funeral takes two weeks to organise, the finer details can be sorted at a later date.
  • Take the time needed and don’t rush into anything.
  • Stop worrying about things that cannot be controlled (for example, if people can attend).

Funeral wishes

Like the previous year, 2021 saw very few people talking about death and what they wanted for their funeral.  Less than 1% of people knew if their deceased loved one wanted to be buried or cremated.

They main topic of discussion that took place seemed to be the preference of who would arrange the funeral.

The discussion of funeral wishes has decreased from 2020 to 2021 by 3% so there is much to be done to find out people’s wishes before they die.

Planning Ahead

SunLife has created a simple tool for loved ones to convey their wishes in a simple tool called ‘My Digital Legacy’ that takes a few minutes to complete and allows the deceased loved ones understand what they wanted with regard to dealing with their digital assets (such as e-mail and social media accounts) after they have died.

Those who have written a will has decreased from 38% in 2020 by 5% to 33% in 2021. 

Whilst people wanted little fuss for their funeral or send-off, it was made clear that recording a person’s wishes and putting a financial plan in place would reduce the stress and possible arguments that can occur on the death of a loved one.

Trends and Traditions

Upbeat send offs continued to be the trend in 2021, with people celebrating life and 74% of funeral directors reporting this rise.

More personal aspects of funerals were seen to be incorporated, such as pets being part of the funeral service and pop songs being played as an alternative to hymns and religious ceremonies, which have decreased.

Colourful attire, rather than the traditional black, and humorous speeches and requests of the funeral director were included in the celebration of life style funerals.

Technology

As webcasts, links, apps and videos were necessary during the Covid-19 pandemic for people to attend virtual funerals, 90% of funeral directors have become accustomed to the new emerging trend of having digital funerals. 

This new trend in technology allowed people, during the Covid-10 pandemic, and those too far away to attend in person to be part of the funeral service and experience a live stream so they felt they could share the experience.

Favourite songs

Interestingly, the most played songs at funerals in 2021 were different to those chosen by the people that were asked about what they wanted played at their own funeral. 

The songs actually played at funerals that took place in 2021 were more traditional (including: Abide with Me (topping the list), Jerusalem, The Lord is My Shepherd and Amazing Grace).

Only two of those (Abide with Me and Amazing Grace) appeared in the list of songs that were chosen by people being asked what they would like played at their own funeral.

The Future Challenges (according to Funeral Directors)

Competition will lead to people shopping around more to obtain quotes and compare funeral director costs.

Reputation is recognisably important and those in the funeral industry that focus on just making money are unlikely to succeed long-term.

Price increases forces other funeral directors to push their prices up, which is unhelpful to the funeral industry.

Standards are slipping with cheaper costs but lesser quality being offered.

Changing trends are likely to affect funeral directors, such as direct cremations. 

Transparency differs between funeral directors so where one might appear cheaper, they may not have included disbursements so the other is, in fact, less expensive than at first glance.

In order to maintain reputation and standard, 40% of funeral directors would like to see the industry more regulated so that pricing is completely transparent and those planning a funeral can see exactly what pricing options are available rather than feeling pressured to choose something at a time they might feel vulnerable.

Summary

  • The cost of dying has decreased, especially in relation to funeral costs. 
  • The cost of a basic funeral cost is, on average, £4,056 (down by 3.1% from 2021) although this could be as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • Similarly, send-off costs have decreased, again likely to be as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions put in place, and costs, on average, £2,484. 
  • Some of the changes to funerals that were enforced due to the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to stay. 
  • Direct cremations are on the rise and whilst 18% or people planned a direct cremation, this figure rose for funerals that took place during the Covid-19 pandemic between February 202 and July 2021, with the increase reported to be 24%. 
  • The figures for direct cremations could be largely attributed to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic in which this might have been more logistically practical or sometimes the only option for some. 
  • Technology now plays a much larger part in funerals, and was most common during the period of February 2020 and July 2021 in which the Covid-19 pandemic limited the number of attendees. 85% of funerals included technology during this period so that funerals were digitally received and possible to attend virtually. 
  • 69% of funeral directors streamed online services and 20% of services were recorded for loved ones. 
  • It is predicted that technology and digital services are here to stay in the funeral industry so that those that wish to attend a funeral but can’t due to ill-health or being too far away can share the experience virtually. 
  • Talking about death and funeral wishes continue to be something that is not discussed fully. 99% of people do not know what their loved ones’ funeral wishes are and this is slowly rising (2% since 2020). 
  • Of the 61% of people that have organised a funeral recently, they may have started to think about their own but only 33% of them have a will in place.
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