Medical examiner scheme: update on cremation regulations and retention of medical referees for transitionary period

23 May 2022

The Ministry of Justice has provided an update on the planned changes to the cremation regulations as part of the wider implementation of the medical examiner scheme:-

‘We previously informed you that secondary legislation had been laid in Parliament to remove form Cremation 5. This legislation came into effect on 25 March 2022 and form Cremation 5 has been removed on a permanent basis.

As you are aware, the medical examiner scheme has been rolled out on a non-statutory basis to all acute settings, and is in the process of being rolled out across non-acute settings. The Government is working towards implementing the statutory medical examiner system from April 2023.

As set out in the 2016 consultation on the Introduction of medical examiners and reforms to death certification in England and Wales, the scrutiny provided by the statutory medical examiners will replace the current arrangements for completing form Cremation 4. We therefore intend to remove the requirement to complete form Cremation 4 when the statutory medical examiner scheme is in place in all settings. We will provide updates to the funeral sector as the implementation of the statutory medical examiner scheme progresses and we move to remove form Cremation 4 in legislation.

The consultation also set out the intention to remove medical referees upon implementation of the statutory medical examiner scheme. We recognise that there is concern from crematoria and from within the funeral sector that new processes will need to be developed and that at least six months’ notice will be needed to implement any changes associated with medical referees. We will also liaise with crematoria and the funeral sector for their help on new cremation guidance. In light of the lead in time required to implement the new processes, we have taken the decision to retain medical referees for a transitionary period once the statutory medical examiner scheme has been implemented to ensure continuity and any required process changes are identified. We will give sufficient time to enable the medical examiner scheme to be fully established and we will work with the funeral sector before removing the role of the medical referee. This will ensure that everyone within the sector is ready for the forthcoming changes.

We will provide updates on the roll out of the medical examiner scheme when they are available.’

Burial, Cremation and Funeral Sector Policy Team

Ministry of Justice