Burial, cremation and death certification
We are responsible for legislation and policy covering burial, cremation, anatomy, hospital post-mortems and death certification matters in Scotland. We are also responsible for developing policy concerning funeral director businesses in Scotland.
We work with local authorities, NHS boards, private business, representative trade bodies, the Death Certification Review Service (DCRS), National Records of Scotland, university anatomy departments and others across Scotland to deliver positive policy change in these interconnected organisations.
We work closely with the following ministerial appointed, independent Inspectors:
- HM Inspector of Anatomy
- Inspectors of Burial, Cremation, and Funeral Directors
Regulation of crematoria
There are 34 crematoriums operating in Scotland. These are a mix of local authority owned and private business.
We have developed and implemented new regulations, including new statutory forms, which all crematoriums in Scotland must use and comply with.
We formed the National Committee on Burial and Cremation to consider burial and cremation developments. The National Committee agreed the key principles and minimum standards for all organisations conducting infant cremations in Scotland in the infant cremation code of practice.
We have introduced new regulations for all NHS boards and private healthcare providers, to improve their record keeping and processes when they are making arrangements for the burial or cremation of a pregnancy loss or stillborn baby.
Across the country, there are an estimated 2,240 burial grounds, the majority of which are the responsibility of local authorities. Some are privately owned and operated.
We have published national memorial safety guidance for use by local authorities.
We will be drafting new regulations relating to burial and burial ground management. As regulations are drafted, we will hold a public consultation on their content.
We licence five universities and two royal colleges in Scotland to hold bodies donated for medical science and teaching. These anatomy departments are governed under the Anatomy Act 1984, as amended by the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 and inspected by HM Inspector of Anatomy. We have provided a guide to donating your body to medical science in Scotland.
Regulation of funeral directors
In December 2020, the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing appointed a Senior Inspector and an Inspector of Burial, Cremation and Funeral Directors.
We are finalising a statutory code of conduct for funeral directors. Funeral directors will be inspected against this code once it comes into force and will be legally obliged to meet its requirements.
We are responsible for the legislation and overarching policy governing the Death Certification Review Service (DCRS). This service sits within Healthcare Improvement Scotland who review around 10% of all death certificates (selected randomly) issued in Scotland for their accuracy. They are also responsible for the reviewing of all documentation during the process of repatriation of a body to Scotland.
We published our statutory guidance on death certification in 2015.
We have produced the following guidance for doctors and medical professionals on death certification:
- confirmation of death by registered healthcare professionals in Scotland
- completing medical certificates of the cause of death (MCCDs) and its quality assurance
- management of death in the community (in and out of hours)
- rapid provision of the medical certificate for cause of death (MCCD) in exceptional circumstances
- verification of death by a registered healthcare professional
Further guidance on death certification is available on the NHS Inform website.
Further contact information for medical professionals on death certification is available on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.