Halfon campaigns over “unfair cremation fees”

News / Mon 2nd Mar 2015 at 11:22am

ROBERT Halfon, MP for Harlow, has launched a new campaign in Parliament, aimed at helping families who have been hit by unfair cremation fees.

In a question at the House of Commons, on February 27th, Robert noted that under the current system, bereaved families often have to pay two doctors to complete a cremation form – costing £160, or £80 per doctor. These fees are passed on to undertakers, and then billed back to families.

Doctors who perform this service receive this money in addition to their yearly salary – and an estimate made in 2010 showed that doctors were topping up their salaries by an extra £15 million per year by signing the cremation certificates.

However, Robert Halfon has argued that doctors should already perform this duty as part of their job description, in a similar way to how doctors sign death certificates without claiming fees. Robert believes that this unfairly penalises families who wish for a cremation as opposed to a burial.

The issue was bought to Mr Halfon’s attention by the case of Lee Dangerfield, a Harlow resident who had to pay these fees. Mr Dangerfield had to pay an extra £160 to obtain a cremation certificate after his father sadly passed away.

William Hague, who responded to Robert’s question, said that the Government is committed to reforming the system.

Mr Halfon said: “These fees are hitting people who are already vulnerable and going through an incredibly difficult time. It is unfair that families wishing for their loved ones to be cremated should have to pay an extra £160 for this service, which is unfair and excessive. Nobody should be left out of pocket in what is already such an upsetting time”.

Robert’s question went as follows:

Robert Halfon:

May we have an urgent statement on the fact that doctors are charging families £80 every time they sign a cremation consent form? A resident in my constituency, Lee Dangerfield, had to pay £160 to doctors when his father sadly passed away, causing him financial hardship at what was already a difficult time. In 2010, it was estimated that doctors were topping up their salaries by an extra £15 million a year by signing these forms. Will my right

hon. Friend write to the Health Secretary about this to see why these fees are necessary, given that this practice seems to be part of the day-to-day job of being a doctor in the free NHS?

Mr Hague:

As my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary is in his place and has been listening to that question, I shall not need to write to him about it; he has taken note of it. The Government are committed to reform of the death certification system. When a patient dies, it is the statutory duty of the doctor who has attended them in their last illness to issue a medical certificate of cause of death. There is no fee payable for completing that, but there are other forms before cremation of a deceased patient. The proposed reform of the system to which the Government are committed would remove the need for cremation form fees. My right hon. Friend has heard my hon. Friend’s point about the urgency of tackling this.

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