New rules have come into effect for death certificates in Scotland… the first UK nation to bring in legislation. Among the positive changes, the good news for families is that cremation certificate fees have been abolished. Families no longer have to pay £170 for two doctors to sign the paperwork need to give permission for a body to be cremated.
This change has come into effect as part of the Certification of Death Act, passed by the Scottish Parliament in May 2015.
And there’s more good news.
As part of the Act, the quality and accuracy of death certificates will be improved. This will give us a better understanding of the actual causes of death. In turn, this will help NHS resources to be targeted more effectively because we’ll have better data on causes of death. And families will be better able to manage their own health because they’ll have clearer information on conditions that may run in the family and be able to take preventative action.
For the first time, relatives will have the right to request a review of the information on a death certificate if they have any concerns.
And there will be random sampling of death certificates in Scotland to ensure the consistency and quality of the data being recorded. This will be carried out by an independent team at Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
Where a death has happened abroad, families will be able to apply for help and financial to arrange for a post-mortem.
Similar changes to death certification rules are proposed in England and Wales.
Legislation was prompted in part by recommendations arising from the crimes of Dr Harold Shipman, to stop any malpractice and ensure there is proper scrutiny of death certificates in Scotland, whether families chose burial or cremation.
What is death certification?
Every death in Scotland must be certified by a doctor who completes a form called a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD). This is also known as the Form 11. The MCCD confirms that the death has occurred and records key information about the death – date, time, place, next of kin and cause of death.
The MCCD is normally given to the person registering the death – usually the next of kin or a family member – by a doctor or member of the healthcare team. The person registering the death can then take the MCCD to a registrar and obtain a Certificate of Registration of Death. This is also known as the Form 14 and confirms that the death has been registered. Currently, the Form 14 is required for a cremation to go ahead, but a burial can take place without it.
One of the main changes is the set up of the Death Certification Review Service, run by Healthcare Improvement Scotland. The review service checks on the accuracy of a sample of Medical Certificates of Cause of Death (MCCD).
Healthcare Improvement Scotland provide more information about the Death Certification Review Service here: weblink. NHS Education Scotland have launched a new website which includes further information for staff who might be involved in completing MCCDs.