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GPs set to lose cremation form fees from next year

GPs are set to lose out on reimbursement fees for filling out cremation forms from 2014 despite retaining much of the burden of the paperwork involved, it has emerged.

The Government has confirmed that the reforms of the death certification process, set out to coroners in September last year and due to come into effect from April 2014, will mean only the ‘medical examiner’ will be allowed to fill out cremation forms and GPs will no longer be paid the £76 for each form - called form 4 and 5 - that they currently fill out.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘A unified and robust system of scrutiny of deaths by a local medical examiner will replace the current system of checks and forms for cremations that do not need a coroner investigation. The new local medical examiner service that will carry out this work will be run by local authorities.’

However, GPs have warned that practices will still have to provide paperwork and contact next of kin.

Dr John Glasspool, a GP in Shirley, Southampton, said he thinks most GPs are unaware of the pending change.

He said: ‘I wonder how many GPs are aware that they will not be allowed to fill in cremation forms, and so lose the fee. Looks a complete nightmare in waiting to me. Not to mention a complete muddle. As far as I can see from chatting to people local to me in Southampton, this has slipped under almost everyone’s radar.

‘My main concern is that they (the medical examiner) will be contacting GPs in the middle of busy surgery sessions demanding extracts from notes and further details. Of course, under the GMC guidance, we cannot do that without signed consent by next of kin/executor, as people are entitled to confidentiality after their death.’

But Birmingham LMC executive secretary Dr Bob Morley said: ‘I don’t think this is a major source of income for most GPs. There are a few with specialist roles, for example those who provide care for hospices for whom it potentially is a more significant source of income. But it is all part of the overall squeeze on income in general practice at the moment, a small part of a much bigger picture.’

Click here to read the full DH advice to coroners

Extract from new DH regulations on death certification and GPs filling out cremation forms:

  • Medical examiners will scrutinise all deaths not investigated by a coroner; scrutiny is part of a new unified process of certification that removes the requirement for cremation forms 4, 5 & 10.
  • Doctors will not be required to see and examine the deceased person prior to a cremation; responsibility for external examinations will be transferred to medical examiners.
  • The proposed fee for the medical examiner’s service will replace, extend and make more effective use of the fee currently paid for completion of cremation forms 4, 5 and 10.

Source: Department of Health

Readers' comments (5)

  • David Bush

    Dr Glasspool is worrying unnecessarily about consent issues. GP's will be at liberty to disclose medical details about the deceased in the same way that they do now when they issue an MCCD ('death certificate') or when they refer to a Coroner. The Medical Examiner will have status and powers similar to that of a Coroner, but will deal with those deaths where referral to the Coroner is not deemed necessary.
    There will be a need to communicate with the Medical Examiner's office (he/she will have officers similar to Coroner's officers) about deaths, but in the majority of cases this will be limited to issuing an MCCD as now. The Medical Examiners Officer (MEO) will take the lead on corroborating the cause of death by speaking to relatives and treating clinicians.
    The advantages of the new system will be removal of the need to complete cremation forms (which will disappear entirely) and a far more robust system for establishing an accurate cause of death in each case, which will lead to much better data reaching the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is ultimately this data that guides the future allocation of resources in the healthcare sector.
    The establishment of the Medical Examiner system together with reform of the death certification process should be seen as a major improvement in public healthcare, and the system has been designed to be user-friendly to clinicians and the bereaved.

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  • Ive looked into becoming an Medical Examiner Officer; There is very little paperwork - it will all be done on an online form and it will be the MEO who discusses with relatives. The MEO will be a valuable source of info' to make the system simpler than it is at present.

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  • I do not agree with David Bush, I do not see how a medical examiner who has not been involved in the care of the patient will be able to give an accurate cause of death without access to the patient's notes and GP. This will mean more work, bureacracy and time lost without reimbursement.
    This is just another hare-brained scheme to reduce the pay, repect and influence of GPs

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  • Well said Peter Goodall.
    No doubt the government will make it part of our terms and conditions of service that we provide information to the MEO on demand and without resourcing.

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  • i think they should retain first part of cremation form which is done by gp and abolish second part done by other go. medical examiner can check if cause of death is appropriate. i was surprised to know that coroner are not medically qualified people. all parties will be happy and next of kin will pay only one gp.. fee but worth it.

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