Doctors working in hospitals earned almost £15m last year in so called ‘ash cash’ payments made by grieving families, figures released by the Liberal Democrats have revealed. The payment is made to doctors to sign a form releasing a body for cremation.
Commenting Liberal Democrat prospective MP for Redcar, Ian Swales, said:
“This is a well established practice but you really can’t justify taking money off grieving relatives when this involves nothing beyond most doctors normal working hours.
“People are at their most vulnerable after the death of a loved one and the last thing they need is these extra charges.
“The NHS is meant to care for people from the cradle to grave but these charges undermine that principle.
“The Government must take action to put an end to this practice as soon as possible as it simply cannot be justified.”
Before a deceased person can be cremated, two certificates stating the cause of death have to be signed, one by the doctor who attended the deceased before death, and the other by a doctor of at least five years’ standing.
Normally the undertaker arranges for the certificates to be signed and pays a fee, often known as ‘ash cash', to the two doctors. The amount of the fee is then included in the charge which the undertaker makes to the deceased person’s estate. Doctors currently receive £73.50 for each cremation form they sign on top of their NHS salaries.The fees for forms 4 and 5 are paid by the funeral director who will almost invariably pass the cost on to the relatives.