Funeral Company Report

Funeral Company Report


Huge disparity in care by funeral companies, report reveals. Some funeral companies are failing to take proper care of bodies. Problems that include; lack of refrigeration, inadequate storage and general disregard for the individual, doctors and other professionals say in a new report. Most people are unaware that the funeral industry is unregulated and that mortuary facilities provided by companies vary widely, the report says.

There are about 7,000 funeral companies in the UK. Two-thirds of which are independent, are mainly small firms. The rest are operated by two corporate providers, the Co-op and Dignity. The number of people employed in the industry has doubled in the past decade to 22,000. The number of deaths each year has remained stable at about 600,000. The market is worth about £2bn annually.

The Report

The report, Time to Talk About Quality and Standards, commissioned by Dignity, says that although funeral costs have come under scrutiny, there is little insight into what people want or expect from funeral directors. Only one in five individuals considered more than one company when arranging a funeral. 92% did not know funeral directors were not regulated, according to a survey carried out for the report. The selection of a funeral company was often made under pressure of time.

Almost three-quarters of respondents said care of the deceased was very important. Most expected bodies to be kept refrigerated at the funeral company or other premises. They also thought they should be cared for in a clean and clinical environment by trained staff. Three per cent said it did not matter what condition mortuaries were in. The report quoted an embalmer, who said: “I do go to funeral directors that don’t [have a mortuary]. The worst was a shed. I’ve embalmed on my hands and knees before because there was no room on the tables.”

A retired doctor who inspected cadavers in London and the South-East said he had seen bodies stacked in fridges or head to toe in one space. He told the Guardian: “There’s a wide range, from a Rolls-Royce standard of well-lit, clean mortuaries with big fridges and cold rooms. These it was clear thought  hygiene as paramount. However there were Dickensian premises which were dark, dingy and stinky, with poor lighting and ventilation. The bodies were piling up at busy times.”

None of the 75 funeral companies visited by anonymous researchers for the report allowed access to their mortuaries.

Care of Bodies

Care of bodies was particularly important. This was because there were growing delays before funerals could take place, said the report. The average time between death and a funeral has increased from 10 days to more than three weeks in less than 20 years. Simon Cox of Dignity said the report had uncovered the gap between perception and reality regarding standards across the UK’s funeral industry. While the majority assume there are demanding standards or tight controls in place, the worrying reality is very different,” he said.

Cox called for regulation of the industry to improve standards. The report suggested a system of independent inspections of funeral companies’ facilities to provide the basis for star ratings. Abi Pattenden, the president of the National Association of Funeral Directors, said the report made “a useful contribution to the wider debate about how we make certain that all funeral directors can be properly assessed for their operational standards”.

The funeral industry is being scrutinised by the Competition and Markets Authority. The Treasury is conducting a consultation on funeral plans, under which people would be able to spread the cost of funerals.


The Guardian 11th August 2018