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Hull City Council statement: Internal Investigation into the Working Procedures for Infant Cremations - 25/07/17
Hull City Council has today published a report (Tuesday 25 July) outlining the investigation undertaken into the handling of infant cremations at Hull Crematorium.

The report highlights a number of recommendations, alongside the significant amount of work already being done with the Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust and local funeral directors, in the handling of communication with parents and record keeping around infant cremations.

In late 2014, following news coverage of the handling of infant cremations nationally, a number of mothers who had experienced an infant death or pregnancy loss in Hull approached the Hull Crematorium for information regarding their babies’ cremations. As a result 57 parents have approached the Council’s Bereavement Services to date since that time; these historic cases relate specifically to instances whereby parents were told that a baby cremation could be arranged through the Children’s Hospital but there would be no ashes as a result of the cremation. In almost all of these cases a record has now been obtained and it has been established that unlike in other investigations nationally, ashes were always produced.

Trish Dalby, Deputy Chief Executive of Hull City Council, said:

“Bereavement is an extremely distressing time for any family to face and our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the loss of their child. We have endeavoured to ensure that all parents whom have come forward have been offered individual meetings, and a detailed and thorough examination of all available records, and anyone else whom has been affected by this issue should contact us so we can offer direct support and provide any detail we have on each individual loss. As we have done so far, we will provide any and all information that we have to the parents, irrespective of when the loss of a baby happened, and we will continue to respond to each and every enquiry.

“Our priority is to ensure that families do not have to go through similar experiences in the future following the death of a baby, and we will continue to work with all parties to ensure the necessary changes are comprehensively implemented.”

The Ministry of Justice has recognised the work the authority has undertaken in leading and co-ordinating these changes and the Council is now part of the National Working Group contributing the experience in Hull into future changes to national cremation legislation.

In 2015 Hull City Council responded to the National consultation on infant cremations and assisted the Local Government Association in guidance to Elected Members nationally with responsibility for bereavement services.

A memorandum of understanding is also now in progress between the Council and the Women and Children’s Hospital to provide clarity of roles and responsibilities of both parties and to ensure that bereaved parents have been informed of all of the choices available to them. The hospital has also appointed a bereavement midwife to act as a central point of contact and information for bereaved parents.

In addition to supporting parents and families by providing and reviewing with them the information we have, we are also focussed on ensuring these situations will not arise again, and we have put a number of measures in place to prevent this.

The Council has also reviewed the processes followed and this has resulted in some immediate changes to the local application processes which are detailed below:

• Funeral directors now provide the cremation authority (the Council) with all the necessary paperwork relating to cremation (the cremation application, medical certificate)
• Information about the funeral service (the preliminary form) is not accepted without an instruction as to how the ashes are to be handled after the cremation, either collected or scattered
• Changes have been made to the form to enhance the importance of the parents/next of kin signature, to confirm that they understand the instruction given to the crematorium regarding the ashes
• An explanation if the signature is not the parent/next of kin. This issue has been discussed at a regular funeral directors forum, to confirm that the application form for a cremation must be completed by the parents/next of kin. A form submitted with the hospital or funeral director as the applicant will not be accepted
• The Council offers a programme of training for current staff at the Women and Children’s Hospital, and any new staff, on a regular basis. The training includes an understanding of the infant cremation process and the requirements of the application form process in order to ensure that midwives, in particular, have the knowledge to inform bereaved parents of the correct information

Almost every circumstance is different, and we encourage parents to contact 01482 614976 if they have any questions in relation to their personal situation, or if they think they might have been affected by this issue.

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