Mortuary review group: response

Response to review the standard of all mortuaries across Scotland, as defined by the Public Health (Scotland) Act 2008.

Scope of the Review

In scope

The review considered mortuary provision provided by public services under the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008.

Out of scope

Mortuaries and body storage facilities within Funeral Directors were not included in the review. However recommendations will consider how the quality of mortuary services in these facilities could be monitored.


The group agreed that the report must address the wider issues of care of the deceased and the bereaved and not just limit the discussions to provision of storage.

The following principles underpin the development of services and professional practice around the time of an individual's death and afterwards. They apply equally to the care of the deceased and the support of the partner, family, relatives and/or others who are bereaved.

The principles are of special significance for particular groups, such as those suddenly bereaved from unexpected and/or traumatic death (including suicide), those whose child dies or children who themselves have been bereaved. Information about the legal requirements is in Annex C .

Dignity, Confidentiality and Respect - when a person dies mortuary services must be fair and with respect for human rights, dignity, privacy and confidentiality e.g. values, culture, beliefs and preferences, of the deceased as well as the bereaved family or others.

Equality of provision - mortuary services must provide a nationally agreed core service standards that can accommodate the range and variety of users' needs equally.

Communication - communication with people around the time of a death and afterwards must be clear, sensitive and honest. This is particularly important when addressing issues such as deaths reported to the Procurator Fiscal, post mortem examination or donation of organs or tissue.

Inclusion and Provision of Information - those who are bereaved, need the right information at the right time, in a way which is understood, and which informs choices.

Compassion, Responsive to Wellbeing and Supportive Partnership - services must be understanding and sensitive to the needs and wishes of people who are bereaved. They must be responsive to the experiences, suggestions/feedback and concerns which must inform the continuous improvement in service quality and protection from avoidable harm. Importance of timing must not be underestimated whilst trying to work at the pace dictated by people's feelings and needs. Appropriate training must be provided for staff to support them in this key role.

Recognising and acknowledging loss - people who are bereaved need others to recognise and acknowledge their loss. Recognition by professionals, appropriately expressed, may be especially valued.

Remit of the Short Life Working Group (details in Annex B):

  • Input into the review/refresh of Scottish Health Planning Note 20 ( SHPN20) by Health Facilities Scotland ( HFS).
  • Implementation of the revised SHPN20 and compliance of facilities and services with SHPN20.
  • Ensure local government and NHS Boards understand their statutory duties under the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008, ensuring that appropriate service level agreements are in place which define the standards to be delivered.
  • Capacity of mortuaries (both facilities and staff resources/skills) to meet current demand and future requirements.
  • Clarification of roles and responsibilities in ensuring that mortuary facilities meet standards and they are followed when relatives are required to visit.

As part of the remit, the group addressed the areas of:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Current mortuary provision (facilities and services) and requirements for future demand
  • Monitoring arrangements
  • Updating the facilities guidance ( HFS)


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