New ‘death tax’ means it will cost you £170 to make sure your relatives are dead

skullYou know the saying “If it aint broke don’t fix it”? Well the Government doesn’t and the new Health and Social Care Bill, due for debate in the House of Lords tomorrow, could end up costing bereaved relatives £170.

The bill, which, if passed will mean the new charge would could be introduced in April 2013, contains a clause requiring councils to involve new teams of officials to check the cause of death stated on death certificate forms.

The method of collecting cause of death information in England and Wales is purportedly already among the best in the world, but the new scheme, which aims to prevent disputes with families, for example when they believe doctors have neglected to mention C.difficile or MRSA as a contributing factor, seems like the proverbial sledgehammer ruining the squirrel’s lunch again.

The charge is likely to be between £130 and £170 and will apparently improve the quality and accuracy of death statistics. Because relatives of deceased people have Government statistics as their primary concern, naturally.

David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association's Well-being Board, said the measure would be seen as "disproportionate" to the problem. It would cost taxpayers another £83 million a year, he chuntered.

"It could well be interpreted as a 'death tax' with councils unjustly painted as the bogey man by bereaved family and friends, particularly those on low incomes", he said.

The Daily Mail predicts that almost “1,000 medical examiners would be appointed on a salary of up to £81,500 a year”. But then, they are also blaming Harold Shipman for the tax, being as he was a doctor who could therefore sign death certificates for his victims that did not state the cause of death was, well, him.

However, the Health and Social Care bill is the same one that the Government had to swiftly remove and redo, after its first incarnation caused such controversy, and the House of Lords is already treating it with some suspicion. Let’s hope they just leave a perfectly functioning National Health Service, and death certification system, alone.


  • Richard
    But doesn't the relative have to pay £148.50 already if there is a cremation (the s0-called 'ash cash')? The proposed sum replaces it. So there already is a 'death tax' if you must use that phrase. It is claimed that the appointment of medical examiners (actually about 300 FTE) will be cost neutral - paid for out of the fee mentioned. As to the 'if it ain't broke' argument, the current system allowed Shipman to murder hundreds of people. Seems pretty broke to me.
  • Dick
    You don't have to pay if you dump the body in a skip and continue to collect the pension.
  • The B.
    "new teams of officials to check the cause of death stated on death certificate forms." Yeah, I can see that conversation now: Pointless council Employee: "could you confirm the cause of death?" Coroner: "Yes, pulmonary edema, like it says on the death certificate that I sent you." Pointless council Employee: "Okay, just needed to make sure." Does anyone really think this will work in any way, shape or form other than a money spinning exercise?
  • Woody A.
    Save your money: don't die.
  • Richard
    Real Bob, you ought to check on the detail before making daft comments. The 'pointless council employee' will take the role of the second doctor (who often countersigns without checking anything) and will be able to ask awkward questions, spot patterns, talk to the relatives etc etc. And since the system is self-funding there won't be any money spinning.
  • The B.
    @Richard, so can you confirm that the pointless council employee will be a fully qualified MD, if not then the whole scheme is a Non Job (Copyright Labour Government Enterprises 1998).
  • simon
    Statistics - who cares about them when your dead If only this could sign the death certificate for councils!
  • Richard
    @Real Bob, go online and confirm it yourself.

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