Issue details

19/00018 - Coroners Removal and Transfer Contracts


To award contracts to Funeral Service Providers for the removal and transfer of deceased persons to hospital mortuaries pending further investigation by the Coroner, or for a post mortem to take place to establish the cause of death.



Background Information:


The removal of bodies is a business-critical function, a statutory responsibility and, importantly should it fail it has a high risk of reputational damage to KCC, Medway Council and the Kent and Medway Senior Coroners.


The Coroner may decide that a suitable practitioner is required (normally a Pathologist) to examine the body and carry out a post mortem examination to help find the cause of death. In such cases the body needs to be transported from where it is lying to a designated mortuary pending further enquiries being made, or to hold a post mortem examination. This movement of the body constitutes a ‘Coroner’s removal’.


In some cases, it is necessary to transfer the deceased from a designated mortuary to another designated mortuary either within Kent and Medway or outside Kent to more specialised mortuaries for example to London (child deaths) or Brighton (infectious cases). These are more commonly known as a ‘Coroner’s Transfer’.


The providers are required to perform the following services:

·         24 hours a day, 365 days of the year;

·         For a coroner’s removal to be at the place of death within 1 hour of being directed to attend by Kent County Constabulary;

·         For a transfer, to have completed it within 48 hours of being directed to do so by a Coroner’s Officer;

·         Bodies that require removal include deaths in the community and in hospitals without a designated post mortem facility and including open spaces, difficult locations, houses, care homes, public highway, railway or water.


Historically Coroner’s removals have been completed by firms of funeral directors who have the necessary vehicles, staff and professional expertise to provide the service. Nationally, in a very few instances the service is provided in-house by local authorities which have their own public mortuary but that is not the case in Kent and Medway.


The current contracts expire on the 22nd May 2019 and following a competitive tendering process we are able to award new contracts from the 23rd May 2019.  These will be for 3 years and include the option to extend by two 12-month terms up to a maximum of 5 years in total.



Decision type: Key

Reason Key: Affects more than two Electoral Divisions;

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Division affected: (All Division);

Notice of proposed decision first published: 26/02/2019

Anticipated restriction: Part exempt  - View reasons

Decision due: Not before 27th Mar 2019 by Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services
Reason: In order that the proposed decision can be published for a minimum of 28 days, in accordance with statutory requirements

Lead member: Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services

Lead director: Stephanie Holt-Castle

Department: Growth, Environment & Transport

Contact: Giles Adey, Head of Registration & Coroners Tel: 03000 410586 Email: Tel: 01622 221003.


The decision was considered and endorsed at the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee meeting on 19 March 2019.

Financial implications: Historically providers have either fully or partially subsidised the service. This was because they absorbed the costs as a loss leader on the basis that the family of the deceased appointed them to carry out the funeral arrangements. Through our engagement with the market and our current service providers it became clear that this subsidy was not sustainable and that providers would in future be seeking full cost recovery.

Legal implications: Coroners are independent judicial officers, appointed by the local authority within the coroner area. Local authorities have a legal obligation to support the work of Coroner’s, to fund all the costs of the service and to provide the necessary resources to enable them to carry out their statutory obligations under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. This includes the provision of appropriate contractual arrangements for the removal and transfer of the deceased.

Equalities implications: An EqIA has been completed for this critical service and all opportunities to promote equality are currently being taken in line with KCC policies and statutory requirement. Should any issues arise they will be dealt with in accordance with KCC policies and statutory requirements.


Agenda items