'Victorian' Wigan mortuary fees are scrapped

The mortuary at Wigan Infirmary
The mortuary at Wigan Infirmary

Hospital bosses have moved to scrap an outdated practice of funeral directors paying money to mortuary staff dating back to Victorian times.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust recently announced it would stop invoicing undertakers for the payments.

The decades-old tradition involved employees in mortuaries receiving extra money for assisting funeral directors with their duties when they visited.

However, the Trust now feels that this is part of the staff’s usual job and the practice is no longer appropriate in the 21st century.

WWL head of nursing for scheduled care Carolyn Dereskiewicz said: “The practice of payments for supportive care from funeral directors to mortuary staff is historical and one that is not just local to the borough but is one that is also undertaken by mortuaries in other parts of the country.

“The payment is not received as a direct cash payment to the staff.

“There are some local trusts that have ceased this practice, including WWL.

“Once we discovered this was happening we looked into it as part of our benchmarking with other Trusts with regard to good practice.

“We feel this is part and parcel of the job description and our mortuary staff would undertake these duties without charging these fees.

“This shows our commitment to supporting bereaved families and the Trust’s values.”

WWL says Bolton’s Trust is now going to follow its lead and organisations such as Warrington and the Countess of Chester have already stopped charging the fees.

If funeral directors send gifts to the Trust in thanks for helpful services, for example at Christmas, these go to the hospital’s charity.

The mortuary service recently benefitted from this with the purchase of specialist equipment to improve dignity.

The Trust has been rated outstanding for end-of-life care by the watchdog the CQC.