The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Every body

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Here’s an interesting story from the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard. These are some extracts:

CIRENCESTER Hospital has closed its mortuary to avoid a massive refurbishment bill and awarded the service to a local funeral directors.

The Tetbury Road hospital, decided to shut down its mortuary earlier this year after discovering it would need a major refurbishment to stay fit for use estimated at hundreds of thousands of pounds. It was given permission by the NHS Trust to outsource its mortuary service.

The NHS hospital put the contract out to tender and all three Cirencester funeral directors- Cowley and Son, A Slade and Son, and Packer and Slade – submitted bids.

The three-year contract has been awarded to Cowley and Son, on Victoria Road. Robert Orford, part-owner Cowley and Sons, said he was pleased with the new arrangement  … “It is a great thing for the hospital too because their current mortuary is unfit for use so they have saved vast sums of money from not having to refurbish it.” … Mr Orford stressed that the agreement would not force families to choose Cowley and Sons as their funeral directors. “Bereaved families have a free choice,” he said. “We don’t have a monopoly on people who die at Cirencester hospital.” He said Cowley and Sons would not receive payment from the NHS for the service. “We have competitors in the town and we have to do all we can to get a step ahead,” he added. “This could be a great opportunity for us.”

There are troubling issues here. How much would it really cost Cirencester hospital to refurbish its mortuary? All it needs is cooling equipment, a serviceable floor and tiled walls. Twenty grand, tops? Hundreds of thousands??

Then there’s the NHS assertion that it asked all three funeral directors in the town to tender. I spoke on the phone to A Slade and Son. They say they were never asked. Dunno about the other undertaker’s — they’re Co-op.

Then there’s the Cowley and Sons’ zero-sum tender. Why on earth would they do that? Philanthropy? Hardly. As with a coroner’s contract, they know that the undertaker with the body is likely to get the funeral. Habeas corpse.

Do you like this any more than me? Redeeming features, please. If none, then any features you please to point out or reinforce.

5 comments on “Every body

  1. Jonathan

    Wednesday 25th August 2010 at 9:17 pm

    This story makes no sense.

    Cirencester’s not a small village. Its hospital must have a few corpses leaving it. 70% of all the deaths in the town, by national average, must add up to a few.

    So how does a local funeral director suddenly have the mortuary space to cope? By renting an industrial unit, leasing scores of fridges and employing new staff – and all at his own expense (hundreds of thousands, according to the N(ot) H(earing) S(ense))?

    Or is he contracting to refurbish the defunct hospital mortuary, saving himself call-out costs?

    Or, is a local hack repaying a Lodge debt to a higher-ranker by spuriously getting his name in the local paper, when nothing of the sort is going on and the hospital mortuary is business as usual? Or maybe it’s the hospital manager who’s in the Lodge?

    In all events, the hospital Bereavement Office gives all bereaved families the name of one local funeral director, by default, to carry out their funeral arrangements. That’s against the rules; quite possibly against the law.

    The maths doesn’t work, whichever way you look at it, and you can’t argue with arithmetic.

  2. Saturday 21st August 2010 at 7:50 pm

    It occurs to me that what the hospital saves is the wages of its mortuary staff — a big saving. Cowley’s will have to keep up with more frequent call-outs, of course, an extra staff cost. But still their commercial advantage is clear to see for all who know how things work. There’s a political aspect to all this…

  3. Saturday 21st August 2010 at 7:24 pm

    It appears to me that the hospital save a little, Mr. Orford makes a lot, and it is bereaved families that pay the price.

    This is a most regrettable situation.

  4. Kathryn Edwards

    Thursday 19th August 2010 at 8:47 pm

    I’d say Nasty with a capital N.

    This whisking the dead off into the commercial zone, in a way that will inevitably compromise the perceived options of the blasted-by-grief bereaved, is a Bad Thing.

    Seems like an important piece of policy fell down a bureaucratic and philosophical crack.

  5. gloriamundi

    Tuesday 17th August 2010 at 10:16 pm

    What an embarrassing contradiction we seem to have from Mr. Orford. On the one hand he says that because they have got the mortuary does not mean people can’t choose another FD, they don’t have a monopoly on ex-patients from the hospital; he then goes on to say that “We have competitors in the town and we have to do all we can to get a step ahead,” he added. “This could be a great opportunity for us.” So it’s not advantageous, and yet it’s a great competitive opportunity? Er – keeping hands on cake whilst ingesting same? H’mm. Not clear,Mr. Orford.
    No, I don’t like it, Charles.
    No doubt we’ll see some budgetary forward passes as public services are cut.

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