Dark ops or what?

Charles Cowling

 

We’ve had a lot of correspondence here at the GFG since Dispatches flung that stuff about Co-operative Funeralcare in our eye (5 mins of telly souffléd into half an hour with a dollop of unleavened ombudsman).

It’s been complaints, mostly, and of course I can’t go into detail about any of them. But almost all of them  illustrate systemic problems in the funeral industry.

One of those problem areas is the conduct of funeral directors who hold a local authority contract for coroners’ removals.

The specific problem here is the way these contracts work. They are often awarded to a funeral director who pitches below the viable commercial rate for the job. The protocol that contracted funeral directors must observe, often, is that they must not solicit for business but they may leave a business card with the family.

Which looks a bit like soliciting for business, yes?

More important, how do councils suppose that undertakers carrying out removals at a loss are going to make it pay? Isn’t there only one way they can make it pay?

How much oversight is there? Do procurement officers ever get out to check up on their contracted undertakers?

Does a failure to find out how contracted undertakers make it pay amount to tacit collusion in questionable practice? We’re not suggesting that council officers are getting backhanders.

How could an undertaker who keeps to the rules hope to win one of these contracts, and why would she want to?

We don’t know the answers to any of these questions, nor do we want to jump to conclusions before getting all the facts. We rely on you to fill us in, if you would be so kind.

What’s it all about?

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John Smith
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John Smith

I had been doing coroners removals for around 5 years and I am on call as I type this. Whilst I can tell a family who I work for if I am asked, I would never tout for work at the scene of a coroners removal as I think it is immoral to do so when a family is still in a state of extreme shock and a body still warm. Too many funeral directors these days are self centred, greedy and exploit families in their greatest time of need. You do not need to exploit people, the work will… Read more »

David Holmes
Guest

Interesting reading 5 years on. What’s changed? Not much, although some of the Group FD’s seem to have given up doing free removals in some areas – because they cannot ‘convert’ enough families to use their (usually expensive) services. The other issue seems to be that PM’s are no longer routinely carried out in the nearest mortuary. This means the free service provider FD is now often using a dedicated crew all day every day, just to remove bodies from PM venue to venue. Perhaps several times, all without getting the paid job. Several I have spoken to have concluded… Read more »

Nick Gandon
Guest

You would think that the procurement process, and the way that the service was instructed and delivered, would be near as dammit similar across the UK. The truth is, that everyone appears to do their own thing. There is a wide difference up and down the land. The Coroner has the power to instruct that a body is recovered into his (or her) custody until such time as the cause of death has been established. In order to do this, in bygone years, he would instruct his officers to recover the body. Since the inception of the constabularies, his officers… Read more »

David Holmes
Guest

I used to do coroner’s removals many years ago – not in the area I currently work I must add. We did them on a rota basis in some areas – in others the coroner’s officer would use a firm who I know paid him a little gratuity. I was not allowed any removals in this London Borough. I assume because I complained. Where we did do removals, my firm was paid. around £42.50 daytime and £100 or so out of hours. Mostly we got the funeral instruction and did present cards if anyone was present to speak to. As… Read more »

Nick Gandon
Guest

I was hoping that the penny would eventually “drop”, but I still can’t quite get my head around whether A.N. Imposter is a genuine poster who has been hi-jacked by someone else posing as A.N. Imposter, or, whether an original, genuine poster called something else has been “overwritten” by Charles as A.N. Imposter.

Would some kind person elucidate, please?

Fran Hall
Guest

I do love reading the comments on posts on this (very funky new look) blog Charles, although I have to agree with a comment by Claire Callender recently when the commenting pigeons were getting their feathers all a’fluster after the Dispatches half hour – it does indeed get very weird in here at times… Personally I find it a bit odd that those with strong views one way or another want to air them without adding credibility to their opinions by backing them up with their real identity – is Big Brother really watching everything that is posted here? And… Read more »

A Celeb
Guest
A Celeb

A Celeb is confused but then Charles and Jonathan won’t be surprised by that! I have done several arrangements where the family told me that the funeral director was lovely, friendly and chatty when he arrived to collect the body. (‘Oh, he was in the Army was he? I used to be in the Army.’) It nearly always worked and the families would ask him for his business card.

Ru Callender
Guest

I have just been called by the person whose identity was hi-jacked by A. N. Imposter, who assures me someone else is posting in his name. It happens, just thought you all should know, so as not to judge the man unfairly.

trackback

[…] accompanied by the indefinite article, than A. N. Imposter, commenting on this post, asked Jonathan, a human cat among pigeons of the very liveliest sort, “How many Deceaseds […]

Nick Gandon
Guest

“a human cat among pigeons of the very liveliest sort”…

Sheer genius with words – in a Barbra Streisand sort of way…..

Bryan
Guest

In my previous business we held the Coroner’s contract for about 6 years. We carried out the removals for free but charged for body bags and transfers from one mortuary to another. The only reason we put in a nil bid was because the contract stated that we could tell the family who we were and leave not just a business card but also a brochure. On that basis it made good business sense and we picked up around 1 in 5 funerals. However we always told families that we were operating on behalf of the Coroner and they were… Read more »

Ru Callender
Guest

Jonathan, I meant no implication as to the innate trustworthiness of undertakers per se, simply that however was doing the job would need to be aware of what was required.

Jenny Uzzell
Guest

I’m going to try again (last time I tried to post on the new look site it vanished in the ether..Charles, have you installed a filter to keep me out? 🙂 I can remember, not long after meeting Keith, being amazed to discover that it was fds who collected the dead from rtas and scenes of violent/unexplained death. For some reason I had always assumed it was the police or the ambulance crews, and I still think that that (or a council employed team) would be a good idea. They would be trained in preserving evidence and so-on. Jonathan, I… Read more »

Beverley Webb
Guest

A rota system seems very fair, Its interesting that a number of tenders for Transportation, removal of bodies and some called coroner removal of bodies and fluctuating prices associated with these tenders such as: Devon County Council = 300.00 awarded unknown Cumbria County Council = Lowest offer 500 highest 750 GBP awarded to Dignity Funerals Suffolk County Council = 550 GBP awarded to Dignity Funerals London Borough of Camden value of contract 280 GBP – awarded to Floyd & Sons Northamptonshire County Council = 275 – 800 GBP – award to The Co-operative Funeralcare Stoke on Trent City Council =… Read more »

G Mott
Guest
G Mott

Are you sure these figures do not relate to pauper’s funerals? Undertakers doing Coroner’s removals usually charge nothing or a nominal sum, often pence. That is how they get the contract that excludes all others.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Yes, Nick, I have experience of handling bodies (as well as being fairly qwerty), including a mangled one after a bus had run over it and the Coroner had dealt with the case. I drove it back to Devon from a London hospital mortuary in my Ford Focus, as it happens. However, I take Ru’s point about preserving evidence – but not the implication that this may be presumed to take place just because an undertaker is the one entrusted to preserve it; what assurance against contamination is there? If I were making the rules it’d have to be the… Read more »

Ru Callender
Guest

I have to agree with Nick on this one. The involvement of the coroner in a death is different from other circumstances. They are a uniquely independent figure in this world, answerable to the Queen and not easily intimidated by the police or any other interested parties. Their responsibility is towards the deceased, and to the truth. Any body taken into their care needs to be done in an exact manner, often to preserve evidence. Much as we approve of the man in a van approach, this is one circumstance when it is not appropriate. Of course, none of this… Read more »

Nick Gandon
Guest

With respect Jonathan, have you any experience of handling bodies, or are you mainly a qwerty sort of chap?

Your post is interesting…..

Vale
Guest
Vale

I love the description ‘a qwerty sort of chap’ nick – I see myself there…

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I don’t see the need for an undertaker at all in this circumstance. The body may be removed to the Coroner’s mortuary, or hospital mortuary, by anyone with a van (eg: an undertaker, a Man with Van, the family of the deceased), and from there it can be returned to, or left at, a hospital mortuary until the bereaved family has deciced, from impartial information given by, oh, say, an independent funeral advisor like me, what to do with it next; whether to leave it where it is (with the cooperation of the mortuary) staff until the funeral, or to… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

What, I wonder, happens if you press ‘reply’ on this new-look blog?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Oh, that does.

A.N. Imposter
Guest

Jonathan I too have to agree with Nick. How many Deceaseds have you handled? how many funerals have you “Advised on?” how many crime scenes have you attended as an FSO or FD? no lets strike FD-Would I be right in thinking you work for a multi national rather than an “Independant”? You most certainly would never work for me with your attitude towards the Deceaseds, they are not an “it” or a “mangled one” and this is not how a “professional” should act, making quips and joking about what type of removal you have attended, they are someones loved… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Nor would I wish to work for you, A. N. Imposter, with your assumptions about my relationship with the person who died. Dorothy was not a ‘Deceased’, as you call her, she was a friend of mine, but her mangled dead body was not.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

…oh, and your assumptions about ‘multi-nationals’, for all my own dislike of them, is quite distateful to me, too.

Keep your job.

Ru Callender
Guest

You must be a recent visitor to the blog A. N. Imposter, not only the word deceased, but capitalised too..

Nick Gandon
Guest

The fairest way to organise Coroners’ removals is arguably the rota system. This is where a family is first given the choice of nominating their favoured undertaker to remove the Deceased. Where they have no preference, or their choice of firm is unable to accommodate, then the police refer to a local rota of participating undertakers. This has been the chosen method that has stood the test of time – but is vanishing fast. My understanding of the mostly unwritten rule of performing a Coroners’ removal is that an undertaker (chosen from the rota) must not identify themselves, and under… Read more »