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.’
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