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'Heartbreaking' delays on death certificates holding up funerals



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DISTRAUGHT families in Hampshire are facing stressful delays in holding funerals for loved ones due to lengthy waits for death certificates.

Jackie Sewell lost her 93-year-old father Kenneth Brookfield last month, who had been living in Birchy Hill care home in Sway.

When she contacted Lymington register office to notify it of his death, she was “horrified” to be told that the first available appointment was five weeks away.

Kenneth Brookfield died last month
Kenneth Brookfield died last month

She told the A&T: “Legally a death has to be registered within five days but they said Covid-19 had led to staff shortages and delays.”

Mrs Sewell was warned of delays in obtaining death certificates when she contacted her local branch of Co-op funeral services to make preparations for her father’s funeral.

To add to her distress, the funeral directors said that without the death certificate, they could not begin preparing her father’s body and he would have to remain in cold storage.

“The staff at Co-op were really lovely and did everything they could to help me but their hands were tied,” said Mrs Sewell.

“I couldn’t bear the thought of dad lying there for so long – it was awful. It really was a heartbreaking situation.

“He had lived the most marvellous life and we really wanted to give him the send-off he deserved.”

A spokesperson for Co-op said that “without a death certificate a funeral director can make the person who has passed away presentable for a viewing but they cannot carry out elements such as embalming”.

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council, which runs register services, said the authority was currently seeing an increased demand.

That was due, in part, to a higher number of people wanting to get married following the lifting of Covid restrictions, they said.

They added: “This has coincided with a move back to in-person registration appointments since national restrictions ended and the removal of other Covid-related procedures, alongside a high level of staff sickness due to Covid-19.

“In some cases, this has led to longer waiting times for appointments, and we apologise for any distress or inconvenience this may cause.

“Our teams – who have been office-based throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and continue to be so – are working extremely hard to ensure that people can register the death of a loved one as soon as possible, and we have provided more resource to do so.”

Mrs Sewell said she was “pleased” to hear the council is trying to rectify the situation: “It’s been very distressing and I wouldn’t want others to find themselves in the same situation.”

Mrs Sewell has complained to New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne.



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