Scotland first in UK to update death certification system

07 May 2011..Maureen Watt MSP Aberdeen South and North Kincardine / Scottish National Party pictured in the garden lobby during the MSP registration session. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Public health minister Maureen Watt MSP

Scotland has become the first nation in the UK to introduce a new death certification system that scraps fees for cremation forms and creates new rights for relatives.

The Certification of Death Act passed by the Scottish Parliament will improve the quality and accuracy of death certificates, and relatives will have the right to request a review of the information on the certificate if they have any concerns. Reviews will be carried out by an independent team at Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

Families dealing with a death that has happened abroad will also be able to apply for assistance, including financial assistance, to arrange for a post-mortem examination.

The scrapping of the crematoria medical referee system is expected to save families around £5.5 million every year, as a fee of £170 for paperwork relating to cremations will no longer apply.

Similar legislation has been proposed in England and Wales, but Scotland is to become the first part of the UK to roll out an updated system.

The legislation was prompted in part by recommendations arising from the crimes of Dr Harold Shipman, to stop malpractice and ensure proper scrutiny of the death certification process, whatever method of funeral is chosen.

Public health minister Maureen Watt said: “Dealing with the death of a loved one is a difficult and traumatic experience. It can also be an expensive process, so I’m pleased that we have been able to improve the system and abolish cremation fees.

“It’s important that the death certification process is rigorous. The recorded information should be both correct and sufficiently detailed that can improve future health care for families and communities. By improving the certification process we can ensure this continues to be the case.

“In the rare cases where a family has concerns or complaints about what has been included on the death certificate, it’s entirely right that they should be able to request a review. For that reason we have introduced a right to an independent review of the death certificate.”

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