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A strong injection of competence and efficiency

would stop an enormous waste of public funds

on tangled and superfluous red tape

and safeguard health and lives.

The information here, adds to the details in the petition launched on Christmas Eve. That mentions further solutions, which can be found below, in points (1) to (5) under the ‘CONCLUSIONS & SOLUTIONS’ subheading. On breaches of law see point (5) and the last paragraph under SOLUTIONS TO MALADMINISTRATION REJECTED.

Most criticisms of the change-over to Universal Credit are about difficulties in obtaining and retaining it. Reports often refer to those struggling as a result, with suicidal urges but in mid-December the government said it doesn’t know how many people have, as a consequence, taken their own lives. The focus in this petition is the health threats caused by gross maladministration over free prescriptions, which the government could so easily resolve.


So bad is the administration within one part of the now fragmented NHS., the Business Services Authority, that it is persistently and unlawfully, threatening with bills, fines and even court actions, many sick and disabled people, who are genuinely entitled to free prescriptions.

Very obvious and very simple solutions to this bizarre, unlawful and crisis situation were rejected by the NHS on the 21st December. It has refused point blank, to make immediate and necessary changes, to put the NHS on the right side of the law.

The NHS won’t instruct its administrators, to ask the Department for Work & Pensions, the only question which would provide the only information which matters, i.e. whether claimants are entitled to free prescriptions.

The NHS has legal duties to protect physical and mental health and provide information which is accurate, trustworthy and easy to understand, regardless of intellectual abilities and sensory needs. If the government instructs the NHS to comply with the law, this crisis would end with the stroke of a pen.



The FP10 prescription form states that patients who are not sure what to do should pay for prescriptions and at the same time, obtain a FP57 to claim a refund. They cannot obtain one after the event.

That statement assumes they are capable at the time, of dealing with the convoluted process and have available funds to pay for prescriptions, mindful of the fact that many claiming Universal Credit, cannot afford to feed themselves and their families and so rely on food banks.


It is not known how many seriously ill people have stopped taking essential medication, just to regain peace of mind, because of bewildering difficulties in fighting off unlawful NHS threats.

As a former medical social worker, John Bradfield stumbled over this issue, when a parent with young children, said they had stopped taking potentially life-saving medication after surgery. They had lost trust in the NHS., because of fears of more unlawful threats. They have to rely on a food bank, so cannot afford to pay for prescriptions and are refusing to claim them for free again.

It is one thing for parents to risk shortening their own lives. It is another to place children at risk of suffering preventable bereavements. Those could cause life-long emotional and relationship harm.

John Bradfield could not believe how difficult it was and how long it took him, to have their bill and fine withdrawn. That says all that needs to be said, about what others who are vulnerable, would be subjected to.

Charities have spoken out but so far, all has fallen on deaf ears within the NHS.

 This outrage must also be stopped,

to prevent the NHS being plunged into disrepute.


What qualifications are demanded, to dream up and sustain such Alice In Wonderland chaos?

Has this convoluted farce and harm to health been picked up by Have I Got News For You?

Is there evidence that civil service trade unions moved swiftly to prevent harm to vulnerable individuals, by calling for effective and efficient administration? Did they put forward obvious and simple solutions, at the first opportunity?

Has the government yet to work out, how much public money is being wasted, on tangled and incoherent communications between the NHS and Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) over this issue?

Why is the NHS persistently failing to ask the DWP the right question, i.e. whether the claimant is or is not entitled to free prescriptions, regardless of which benefit they are receiving? Yes, the solution is that simple but it has yet to be grasped.

Do civil servants and politicians not realise the absurdity, of what right now, they are insisting must be done?


There have long been very obvious and very simple solutions, which any clear-thinking adult with no qualifications or administrative experience could recommend:-

(1) tick any box on the prescription form, strike out the adjacent words and write “Universal Credit”, as long as something that simple and truthful, would not result in a legally invalid fine or legally invalid court action;

(2) ensure the DWP puts Universal Credit payments on one sheet of paper as now but add (a) figures, if any, for earnings or “take home pay” in the same period and (b) state on the one page, whether or not the combined figures prove entitlement to free prescriptions, for the period in question;

(3) require the NHS to confirm with the DWP past entitlements to free prescriptions and make refunds, without requiring claimants to apply for those;

(4) ensure the NHS knows how to write and explain things in ways which are easy to understand, rather than continually rejecting evidence of entitlement, because that evidence lacks “full” details, without saying what is missing and where that can be found;

(5) demonstrate a determination to respect the law, by ensuring NHS civil servants cannot use tangled administration, to persistently subvert full compliance with the law, e.g. the legal duty to protect and promote both physical and mental health and the legal duty which came into force on the 1st August 2016, to provide information which is accurate, balanced, trustworthy and easy to understand, regardless of intellectual and sensory needs.

In short, enforced poverty is a threat to health, to lives, to emotional well-being and to stable relationships which are so vital to the protection of children.


These are some of the organisations asked to publicise the issues:-

British Medical Journal, The Lancet, Pulse (medical website), Royal College GPs., British Medical Association, organisations representing pharmacists, Health Service Journal, Nursing Times, The Patients Association, Community Care, various newspapers, Private Eye, Gingerbread.


If you find funerals depressing, strange or even oppressive, this may be your one and only opportunity to help turn things around.

You only have until 11:45 on the 21st August.

Help make the world a better place, by reading and responding urgently to this public consultation document.

It is short, easy to understand and looks harmless enough. However, as you will see below, the dangers are in what it doesn’t say.

If we can bring the Department for Work & Pensions into the modern world, that would have a knock-on effect with the NHS and other public services. The information which they hand out would then be very different, when those we are close to have died and we have to struggle with the intensity of our grief.

Pasted below is the full length version of summary details, which John Bradfield of the Alice Barker Trust circulated to a number of organisations. If you find his approach too technical, just do a word search for relatives, friends and daughter in what he has written. You will see how much we could all achieve, if provided with practical information, on how to pursue our full range of lawful options.


Note.  Apart from specific mentions of Scotland, most if not all of what follows, is essentially about England & Wales.

What matters more than anything else, is meeting the urgent needs of those who are facing the first minutes, days and weeks of struggling with devastating bereavements.

That cannot be achieved by the public consultation, as long as their needs are seen through the ever dominant business prism of the “funeral industry”.

Please make a strong call for the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to adopt instead, a perspective which is designed to robustly protect and promote emotional and social wellbeing.

Unless the notion of joined-up or seamless public services has been abandoned, there cannot be a credible reason to carry on resisting a health and welfare approach, e.g. because of the legal duty on the NHS to protect and promote both physical and emotional wellbeing. That is especially so during times of emotional crises, such as the immediate impacts of devastating bereavements.

Crucially, that legal duty means having to empower us when we are facing personal and social crises. That includes a legal duty to outline our options with nothing other than accurate information. Given the determination of relevant government Ministers and other MPs., that is something the DWP could so easily help achieve, by outlining what we can all do and how we can do it. That in the long run is cheaper for the public purse, because prevention is more cost effective than cure or protracted care.

Other than a lack of foresight and wisdom, what possible reason could there be to resist that? The Health & Social Care Directorate within the Scottish government has studiously resisted it, so may have the answer.

On the 3rd August 2017, I emailed the government’s Cabinet Office in London, to request that a correction on law be added to the details within the DWP’s public consultation, to comply with the government’s consultation standards.

I also asked that those standards be strengthened, e.g. there isn’t one which clearly requires that information in formal public consultations be accurate. The NHS and adult social care services have had a legal duty to provide accurate information since the 1st August 2016. Other public services could and should do the same, without any necessity for them to have a legal duty to do so.

The legal flaw in paragraph 4.5 of the DWP’s consultation, is that contrary to the wording of the current DWP Regulations, it is impossible for anyone to become the owner of a grave or “burial plot” in a public burial place. That was drawn to the attention of the DWP on a number of occasions in recent years. Consequently, it is all the more surprising that the same error has been written into this public consultation.

What had been the ability to purchase perpetual “burial rights” to control who could and could not be buried in what were loosely referred to as “family graves”, was ended by law in 1964 (Church of England) and 1974 (local authorities in England & Wales). Even then, the landowner still owned the graves.

It is still possible to purchase perpetual burial rights in public cemeteries in Scotland. That may change, as the Health & Social Care Directorate within the Scottish government, held a related public consultation in 2015. It is currently moving forward on the basis of pseudoscience and trying to solve problems which do not exist, whilst ignoring those which do. In short, Scotland still has the opportunity to set world class standards, by being the first within the UK., to adopt a robust health and welfare perspective. It has been and may still be, at serious risk of losing the plot and demonstrating creeping authoritarianism, with the intention of removing ancient civil rights, without sound justification. By contrast, it was and may still be avoiding the issue of storing up future risks to life and limb, by not insisting on gravestones which cannot become unsafe. Its consultation closed on the 24th April 2015 and 8-year-old Ciaran Williamson was killed by a gravestone in a Glasgow cemetery on the 26th May 2015. Did his untimely death change the priorities of the Scottish Government?

Now, in local authority burial places within England & Wales, in addition to paying to have a grave dug and filled, it is only possible to pay to have use of a grave, for a specified number of years. The maximum length of time anyone can own the “burial rights” is 100 years, but usually 50 and sometimes fewer are offered.

The whole point of that is so graves in those public burial places can be emptied and used again when burial rights expire. That guarantees a continuous flow of income for the continual running of the services but for temporary rather than permanent burials.

Temporary protection of individual burials can be extended, for as long as money keeps being paid, to renew the “burial rights”, immediately before they expire, on each and every occasion. Sooner or later there will be no-one to renew those rights and the graves will be emptied and used again.

Despite what it is legally able to do, the Church of England rarely sells “burial rights” in its new graves. “It is not possible” to purchase burial rights in graves owned by the Church in Wales. The Church in Scotland appears to own very few burial grounds and it may be, that none remain active. It has its own laws on a range of subjects but its legal department was not aware of any relating to graves (lairs) and burial rights.

Paragraph 4.5 in the public consultation is potentially very serious. What is proposed, could end up forcing some who are eligible for Funeral Payments, to use what were referred to as “pauper” graves, if only those are offered in some local authority areas. Those are where burials have already taken place in the graves. Increasingly, they will include those where burial rights have expired, if they still have room for one or more extra burials.

When only used graves are offered to those claiming Funeral Payments, they currently have the option of using “new” graves in adjacent or even other local authority areas. Their charges would be covered by the DWP., up to a cap on the amount which can be paid. Will that option remain, with changes to come in the DWP Regulations?

Although burial rights can be purchased at any time, it may or may not prove possible to purchase them, in a grave where those buried have no connections with each other. For example, it would give an advantage to one burial over another and that might be discriminatory.

Some years ago, claimants were restricted to using such graves. The public consultation may not signal an intention to revert to the previous system, which many saw as stigmatising but it could be the start of a slippery slope. Paragraph 4.5 looks innocuous to the uninitiated but as with many things, unintended consequences need to be considered, before any changes are made to existing law.

In more recent years, the government gave up on ensuring that Funeral Payments would cover all costs, when using commercial contractors, such as undertakers. To meet whatever charges they may be keen to make, they persuaded the government to lend additional money to those entitled to Funeral Payments. That is plunging them into avoidable and in many cases, greater debt.

That meant that the government willingly abandoned the financial ceiling below which undertakers could be urged to work. That abandonment had the support of the LibDems fronted then by DWP Minister Steve Webb MP.. He lost his seat at the last general election and became director of policy with the Royal London, which is running TV advertisements for funeral insurance.

The public consultation document states that the government doesn’t want to place, “an additional burden on the funeral industry”. With the encouragement of Steve Webb when still a Minister, the government imposed a frightening burden of debt on benefit claimants, when they are acutely vulnerable, struggling with the immediate impacts of devastating bereavements and risks to their health.

As a result, the Co-op asked one woman to borrow £2,000 to add to her Funeral Payment. She was so frightened, that her mother wasn’t buried for 4 months. The local authority stepped into the breach and arranged what would have been called a “pauper’s burial”, about which see above.

When the daughter’s time comes, it will not be possible for her to be buried with her mother. However, I discovered that the DWP Funeral Payment with the £700 would have covered all costs for a new grave, for mother and daughter, had the undertakers not been involved.

It is important, therefore, that the DWP inform benefit claimants, their relatives, friends, neighbours, voluntary organisations and others, that they can work together to do everything themselves and claim Funeral Payments. To obtain Funeral Payments, there is no obligation to involve any commercial contractors.

A question you might well ask, is why the DWP has not made that common knowledge over many years?

This consultation could change that if you stress the point.

Currently, Funeral Payments cover the full burial and cremation charges in each local area. To reflect the true meaning of those payments, it would be clearer in future legislation to refer to Burial & Cremation Payments. The additional sum payable which is currently £700, is intended to help ensure related practical arrangements can be covered. That sum is not intended to cover the high and often extraordinarily high costs of using commercial contractors, such as undertakers.

Burial charges covered by the DWP include the digging and filling and the right to retain the use of the grave, for a specified number of years, as mentioned above. Also mentioned above, is that £700 can be claimed for anything else. If a coffin is to be used, purchasing one from the internet would take a chunk from that sum.

For the avoidance of doubt, no law requires that coffins, shrouds or other special clothing, hearses or undertakers, be used for any reason at any time.

Undertakers have no powers to say what anyone can and cannot do. That is despite what some of the most lucrative undertaking businesses have been known to do and say. If law was better understood and access to the courts did not depend on having deep pockets, some undertakers could have been prosecuted for obstructing those who pay their bills. Only they have what the law says is “lawful control” over what can and cannot be done, where and when, i.e. they in law are the only legitimate directors of funerals. In law, undertakers should be humble and obedient servants and not “directors” of anything.

Before a Parliamentary Adjournment Debate about Funeral Payments on the 26th April 2011, Teresa Evans ( and I had already persuaded the DWP to make clear in its literature that, Funeral Payments can be made, without using undertakers or other commercial contractors.

Even now, the DWP doesn’t give practical information, about how to deal with things in other ways, to help avoid going deeper into debt.

The DWP must be urged to move away from unwittingly promoting the “funeral industry”.

That is contrary to not only a health and welfare perspective but also contrary to the safeguards intended in consumer protection legislation.

If nothing else, the DWP should at least appear neutral. However, that may not be acceptable in law, as there seems to be an implied duty to protect those who are most vulnerable, so they gain a sense of security, through the actions of our social security system.

The term “social” is very relevant here, where I have mentioned relatives, friends, neighbours, voluntary organisations and others. Will the DWP put them centre stage, in its future social security literature on Funeral Payments?

All public services should have as their main priority, how to help avoid the harmful financial, emotional and social consequences, for those who are dying and newly bereaved.

All must be urged to promote a robust health and welfare perspective.

For that to happen, the DWP., NHS., Social Services Departments (E&W) and what are or were Social Work Departments in Scotland in particular, must do what was recommended in an academic study in the 1930s. The same was more recently recommended by the now defunct Office of Fair Trading but has never been done. That is, provide sound information on all lawful options and how to go about doing sensitively, whatever will best meet emotional and social needs.

That would not only empower individuals but encourage and strengthen social bonds and supports within families, other groups and communities.

We have constructed and still keep propping up a culture, which unwittingly encourages the financial exploitation of grief. That is done by those on the frontline, such as NHS staff and coroners, who naively allow undertakers to influence policy makers, directly and/or indirectly. That was deprecated in the above academic study in the 1930s but hard lessons have not been conveyed, even by the proliferation of modern university education and training courses, relevant to health and welfare.

Only detailed, creative, sound and therapeutically empowering information on one credible website, would minimise those things which are most disabling, such as financial exploitation, intense fears, ignorance, mystery, harmful and often total dependence, helplessness and hopelessness.

Empowerment, by encouraging independence of thought and action would also help prevent those living in poverty from being plunged even further into avoidable debt.

Points like these are not raised in the DWP’s public consultation document, but you could raise them and flag up other important issues which are not mentioned above.



John Bradfield, CQSW FETC MA., Former Medical, Psychiatric & Child Care Social Worker & Tutor.

Writer & Campaigner on Bereavement Issues, Related Law & Practice.

Yorkshire Post letters 2014 & 2015

Governments have created culture of cover-up on abuse


Culture of cowardice deters public sector whistleblowers


(The suggested title was ‘No urgent law to stop and prevent abuse’)

Shame those who failed to act on abuse


(The suggested title was ‘Serious abuse requires serious penalties for all public officials’)



DoH civil servants have consistently failed over decades, to deliver laws and policies which would have had major impacts, on abuse and negligence. Those are forms of ‘bereavement’, i.e. the “loss” of anything of crucial importance to us such as life, limb, health, innocence, personal integrity, peace of mind, emotional security and stability. The NHS has a legal duty to protect those things, (Ss.1 & 1A, NHS Act, 2006) but where are the politicians and political parties determined to ensure that staff comply with the law?

At no time since the start of the NHS in 1948, has the DoH provided information on law and psychology, to guide NHS staff on how to respond and not respond, after the devastating death of a relative or friend. The DoH consultation documents issued in January on collecting bodies from hospitals, incompetently fail to outline relevant law and psychology. What is proposed is the very opposite of what those demand and will inevitably inflict immeasurable emotional harm. That is not understood by staff in the DoH.. Why not?

The DoH allowed hospitals to impose criminal obstructions to the collections of bodies. It is about to encourage those criminal obstructions. It will be the most outrageous change in the way NHS staff and other public servants respond to anyone, in the first minutes, hours and days as they attempt to cope with a death. Crisis and survival psychology, (i.e. about why some of us die in threatening situations or survive but become disabled with post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, anxiety, suicidal urges and so on), point unequivocally to the importance whenever possible, of having opportunities to take control, be assertive, proactive, decisive and purposeful in finding our own solutions and ways of coping. Anything which obstructs our ability to do those things, can be predicted to cause emotional harm, in the short, medium and possibly long term. The gross incompetence of civil servants in the DoH., will force even more of us into helpless dependency, reinforcing our fears of taking control, when we have to cope with the death of a baby, young child or adult. We may also have to cope with the criminal destruction of our family graves. That should have been resolved during recent court cases but public officials misled the courts on relevant law.

I call again on the Health Select Committee in parliament to consider basic questions such as these:-

Q.1  “If no-one had ever died in the past but it was known that deaths would happen for the first time and soon, what emergency emotional, social and other needs could we expect anyone to have, in the first minutes, hours and days, after the death of a close friend or relative, whether a baby, young child or adult?”;

Q.2  “What would we expect health, welfare and other public services to be ready to do to meet those needs, not least to protect and promote emotional wellbeing, as required by law, (Ss.1 & 1A, NHS Act , 2006) ?”;

Q.3 “Would we expect them to do anything which is not being done at present, based on what is known from crisis and survival psychology and current law?”

Q.4 “Is anything being done which should be stopped for legal, psychological or other reasons?”



08 April 2015 Press Release

Retired social worker asked police to arrest DoH staff

On returning to work after the Easter holiday, staff at the Quarry House office of the Department of Health in Leeds, summoned the police to remove retired social work tutor John Bradfield from the premises. His protest followed 20 years of unproductive letter writing.

Two police officers arrived and agreed that he was not breaking the law. He explained that unless a coroner is involved, criminal law prevents hospital staff and anyone else, from dictating who can collect, when and how, the body of a baby, young child or adult.

He then asked the police to arrest the civil servants responsible for encouraging “endless criminal and oppressive responses, when NHS staff are involved in the first minutes, hours and days, with those having to cope with devastating bereavements”. He added that, “staff must always respond therapeutically and stop acting like high security prison guards”.

With the children’s organs scandal, he said, “everyone knew what was happening and no-one did anything about it”, according to former Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell. “To this very day, NHS staff continue to resist the full lessons of that scandal. Everyone knows what is happening over breaches of criminal law when relatives attempt to collect bodies”, said John Bradfield. That, he said, “carries no maximum penalty and no limit on when a prosecution has to start and the courts regard it as very serious”.

The Health Select Committee in parliament revealed, that civil servants in Quarry House had already decided by the 27th February, what they would do before the close of a public consultation at midnight on Easter Monday. They will advise NHS staff to see what John Bradfield describes as a “completely irrelevant” document, before bodies are collected.

He says, “Nothing in that consultation mentioned relevant psychology or what the law does and doesn’t allow”, adding that “this is incompetence of the highest order”.

The same staff were criticised in January by the Royal College of Pathologists for the “incomprehensible” delays in finding a new approach to monitoring causes of deaths, after GP Harold Shipman was found guilty 15 years ago of killing patients.

When driving one Friday to collect the body of a friend from a hospital, John Bradfield thought it would be his own last day on this earth. The police had warned everyone to stay at home. Accidents caused by black ice, dense fog, heaving rain and flooding, resulted in many closed roads, including parts of the A1 motorway. He tried to arrange the collection on the Saturday, the day before the funeral but the hospital refused to help, when police had advised driving conditions would be safe. John Bradfield said, “the decision of the hospital could have put me in its A&E ward or mortuary, because NHS staff have not been advised on their legal duty, to protect physical and emotional wellbeing around bereavements and how to help prevent fatal accidents”.

He claims, “there is a desperate need for NHS staff to be provided with sound information on law and crisis psychology, as that has never been done since the start of the NHS in 1948″.

The parliamentary record states that he has, “unparalleled expertise on relevant law”, since 1990 has provided “the nation [with] a free public service which no-one else is capable of providing” but clearly civil servants in Leeds and NHS staff have been shooting this messenger, which is why he was seen with an arrow through his head during his protest.

He is calling for a courageous MP to tackle this taboo subject in parliament.

Bereaved mother Teresa Evans provides more details on this story via




This proposal traces back to the education of health and welfare staff since the 1960s. Very determined voluntary work over the last two decades, has caused volunteers to give up, on an empowering approach to bereavement, due to the unrelenting stress, caused by having to deal with public servants who persist with unlawful obstructions. We have set out below, a significant part of the solution. If grasped by politicians, a modern public service funded and organised by voluntary organisations would emerge. It would be user-friendly, inspire the best in public service and create a lasting legacy for the nation.

When someone dies, one emergency is over but all staff in the NHS., welfare and other public services should recognise, that other ‘health’ emergencies may have started. That requires that all staff in all public services co-operate fully, with the lawful decisions and responsibilities, which those who are newly bereaved and others would take, if not unlawfully obstructed or kept in the dark, about their choices for taking control.

For almost four decades, formal NHS policy effectively defined a procedure as bad practice. It is now being adopted by some hospitals as good practice. We are confident that it is criminal. The police do not understand the law, so have never referred incidents to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration. Such technical details could be dealt with clearly and simply, in a new law, to promote self-help and independence.

The proposal here, would radically transform public services across the board. We need to demonstrate an intellectually credible and lawful way of responding to emotional and social emergencies. Many public services respond in ways which are not recognised as oppressive and unlawful. When challenged, public servants have taken a year or more, to put things right. Others decline to respond. Courts and tribunals are too slow, cumbersome and costly, to deal with everyday emergencies. Those require immediate decisions, which are not only legally sound but do not cause helplessness, hopelessness and wholly unnecessary dependence on our public services. That happens when they try to control us. They must act to give us the confidence to act independently, collaboratively and responsibly towards others.

We cannot move forward, unless the government agrees to and provides a new law. We are so sure of immediate success, that the requested powers could be granted for a trial period, to test the benefits.

Given the necessary powers, unlawful actions and hindering responses by public servants could be stopped at a stroke. The new service would issue instructions to immediately comply with existing law. However, those instructions would be invalid, if they could be proven wrong, inaccurate or misleading. If public servants or others persist in emergencies, with actions they cannot immediately prove to be lawful, the new voluntary service would instruct offenders to help and not hinder or completely withdraw. If they refuse, the emergency service would have the power to enforce its decisions and as a last resort, impose fixed penalties. That would achieve instant results and through publicity, a sound way of driving up standards. A sound body of legal and psychological knowledge would quickly emerge, with significant contributions being made by our best public services and universities.

Only incompetent, blundering and oppressive officials would have anything to fear. Through such new and democratic challenges, staff would instantly recognise how to provide excellent public services.

Crucial but little known laws would be made clear. However, we believe the government would want to go further. For example, when a very disabled mother died unexpectedly at home, her social worker, rushed to collect her three children from school. On the very same day, they were evicted from their rented home, by the person responsible for their mother’s Will. The social worker and approved volunteers were prepared to live with the children for a few days or weeks, until they had been given time to absorb what had happened. Emergency powers were needed to protect those children, in their own home, in that emotional and social emergency. Their social worker needed the emergency power, to override the decision to evict the children. Through the requested emergency service law, greater protection could be given to children, who are suddenly faced with devastating circumstances.

An academic in psychiatry, recently discovered that even hospice staff are reluctant to speak about death. So strong is our cultural taboo, that most health and welfare staff withdraw, the moment someone dies. Those who are newly bereaved even after expected deaths, may feel abandoned, isolated and bewildered. They may feel like wild animals trapped in cages or be frozen with fear. They may need immediate help to make sense of their feelings and reactions. They may need immediate help to gain rapid control, over situations which feel totally out of control. There have always been pockets of excellence, which have never been spread across the board. That is because of inadequate education, training, guidance and support. Consequently public servants lack the confidence to help with all manner of lawful decisions, taken immediately after bereavements. The new law is now the only answer, to rapidly break away from the disabling, unlawful and even criminal habits of the past.



On Remembrance Sunday, a charity will launch a website, calling on the government to stop colluding with the unlawful destruction of graves created within living memory.

WW2 veterans in Halifax protested in vain, over the destruction of their family graves in 1993, in what had been Methodist burial ground. After the destruction, John Bradfield of the Alice Barker Trust, who had published a book on burial law, pointed out that the government continued to act unlawfully. He said, “Families had purchased the rights to continue with burials. They were the owners of their gravestones which could not be removed or destroyed without their prior consents. An adjacent burial ground could suffer the same fate, if the government continues to defy the requirements of the law”.

In 2010, the Ministry of Justice caused what archaeologists referred to as a “crisis”, because of confusion over the law and refusals to issue exhumation licences in the same circumstances as previously.

John Bradfield is highly critical of the Ministry of Justice. He said, “It recently squandered the first opportunity in 155 years, by failing to explain the issues in the highest courts in the land”. The Court of Appeal upheld a judicial review decision, that a religious order can trump a close relative, over whether a grave can be destroyed. The Supreme Court refused an application for a further appeal.

John Bradfield said, “The family graves of war veterans will continue to be destroyed, with the collusion of the government, unless the Ministry of Justice clarifies the law in the courts or creates the modern legislation which has long been called for”.

Contact details

John Bradfield, Alice Barker Trust, 7 Knox Road, Harrogate, HG1 3EF.

Tel. 01423 530 900.


NOTE – emails are not seen automatically so please ring if you send an urgent email.


The information here is about collecting a body from a hospital. The same information applies to any other place, such as a hospice, nursing home, care home, children’s home, foster parents, prison, former workplace or anywhere else. You must decide whether or not to check, that all of the details below are entirely accurate, before deciding what to do. In the last 20 years, no-one has proven any of these details to be wrong, but that is not a guarantee that everything below is correct. If any hospital staff, coroners or anyone else claims that something below is wrong, inaccurate, and incomplete or misleading, insist that they provide the proof, in a note or letter giving precise legal references. If they are experts in their own field, they will have no difficulty providing you with that information, in writing and without any delay.


This information is about the law in England & Wales. A few legal references are given, which may look like car registration numbers. Ignore them unless anyone asks you for evidence, to prove the accuracy of one or more points.


If you need to take the body of a friend or relative home, immediately after their death in a NHS hospital, try to do so before mortuary staff become involved. The reason is outlined below.

It is criminal offence under common law, to prevent someone entitled to “lawful control” from collecting a body. The law demands that full “control” be handed over immediately, whether or not any documents have been issued for any relevant purpose. It is illegal to demand that they first do something, such as pay a bill, prove that they have obtained one or more documents for a funeral to take place or have done anything else, (R v Fox 1841 114 ER 96; R v Scott 1842 114 ER 97; Williams v Williams 1882 51 LJ Ch 388).

Anyone who hides a body from the person attempting to take lawful control could be prosecuted for preventing a burial or cremation, even though that was never their intention (R v Hunter et al 1974 LR QB 95).

Paul Matthews (former coroner for the City of London and a professor of law responsible for the relevant text in Halsbury’s Laws of England) stated in a law journal as long ago as 1983, that it might be difficult to sue, if someone uses reasonable force to collect a body.

Frontline hospital staff could be prosecuted, if they obey unlawful instructions, regardless of who gives those instructions. Legal action could be taken against NHS staff if they obey any formal instructions, even if issued in the name of Her Majesty the Queen and those turn out to be unlawful, (1867 Foster -v- Dodd and Another LR 3 QB 67-77 Ex Ch).

If the body is not handed over and the police and Crown Prosecution Service take legal action, a fine or prison sentence could follow. For this reason I feel it necessary to elaborate on the shortcomings of the NHS, and make some suggestions for improvement. For ease of reference I also provide here a link to a news item here on the website about the protest undertaken by John Bradfield in 2015.

A body must not be exposed, either naked in public or to deliberately shock anyone. However, there is no legal requirement to hide a body from view.

When a child dies whilst in the care of the local authority, it only retains powers if, “the parents cannot be found or are unable to exercise their rights” (Court of Appeal 27.03.1991 R v Gwynedd CC 1992 ALL LR 317). The local authority cannot impose preconditions on parents and hospitals have no greater powers in dealing with the bodies of children or adults.

The Royal College of Nursing agreed that it and the British Association for Accident & Emergency Medicine, made a fundamental error on law, by wrongly claiming in an otherwise excellent report, that hospitals legally own bodies, (‘Bereavement Care In A&E Departments’ 1995:25 – see corrections in Nursing Times 11.09.1996:24 and 02.10.1996:27). No person and no organisation can “own” a body immediately after a death.

Hospitals which design their own body collection form, must take considerable care, not to breach any aspect of relevant law. For example, any demand that some document be produced before a body can be collected, might be regarded by a court, as an illegal precondition. National NHS policy for almost 40 years, starting from 1955 states that hospital staff should not ask to see “green forms” from registrars of births and deaths (HM(55)30 & HM(72)41). The Alice Barker Trust and I are certain, that demanding to see a “green form” or any other document, before releasing a body, would almost certainly be illegal, no matter how NHS or other policies may be worded. Such policies, whether national or local, must not give unlawful guidance or unlawful instructions.

There is no law which requires that undertakers be used for any purpose. It would be illegal to insist that undertakers must be used, to collect bodies from hospitals or anywhere else.

The Department of Health (DoH) has long been aware of concerns about NHS staff breaking the law. The spread of the problem is like an infectious disease throughout NHS hospitals, but now that the problem has been drawn to the attention of Parliament maybe the DoH will quickly bring an abrupt end to encouraging criminality, opposed to kicking the issue into the long grass. If not, the question is, whether the police and Crown Prosecution Service will prosecute the Secretary of State for Health?

Stephen Dorrell was the Health Secretary at the time of the national scandal over the illegal retention of children’s body parts in NHS hospitals. On BBC TV Question Time on the 02 June 2011, he mentioned that Prof. Sir Ian Kennedy had said that:

“The real scandal is not that no-one knew. The real scandal was that everyone knew and no-one did anything about it”.

With that in mind, why have the full lessons of that scandal not been learnt? Why are more and more NHS hospitals breaking criminal law by obstructing the collection of bodies? Why are more and more acting oppressively towards those who are newly bereaved? Oppressive is how the criminal action was described by a judge – see 1842 case above under ‘Court Cases’.

Who can collect a body?

I provide here a Body Collection form which may assist those wishing to collect a body and have obstacles placed in their way. That also mentions the collection of property, as damaged clothes worn at the time of an unexpected death, may be very important to close relatives and friends.

The person who decides what can and cannot be done with a body at the time of death, is the person who has the greatest right to take “lawful control” and they rank in this order:-

(a) a coroner if the death was unnatural, accidental, a result of poisoning, violence, an industrial disease, in prison, police custody or any circumstances requiring an inquest. When none of those circumstances apply, case law suggests that a coroner cannot take control when the cause of death is merely “unknown” and they have reasonable cause to suspect that the death was natural. If a coroner gets involved and later discovers that the death was purely and simply natural, their powers stop immediately;

(b) the person responsible for dealing with the Will of an adult who has died. That person may be referred to by different people as an executor (“ex-ek-yoo-tor” or “egg-zek-yoo-tor”), personal representative or administrator;

(c) the nearest relative;

(d) if none of the above apply, then anyone who intends to arrange and pay for a funeral;

(e) if the person died in a building belonging to someone else and none of the above apply, the “householder” where the person died, which could be a hospital, hospice, care home and so on;

(f) the local authority if no-one and no organisation takes “lawful control” or the person with lawful control, does not have the funds to pay for a funeral or they fail to do anything lawful with the body or abandon the body. It has yet to be tested in the courts, as to whether or not a local authority could pass their bill to a “householder” if they decline to take responsibility. In this connection, a Scottish case in 1953 is often mentioned but it did not explicitly consider the “householder” question, (Secretary of State for Scotland -v- Fife County Council). The local authority may claim back expenses, if the person who died left money or property.

It is a criminal offence, to prevent the immediate collection of a body, by the person who makes known that they have “lawful control”. They do not need to use those words or produce any documents. It is enough that they say who they are. Hospital staff cannot act as judge and jury. If someone uses deception to collect a body, they would be answerable to the courts. They would not be answerable to hospital staff.

It is most common for the nearest relative to claim “lawful control”. However, they would not have control, if at that very moment in time, a coroner or person mentioned under (b) above, had already said that they had taken “lawful control”. If no such decision has been taken, the body would be under the “lawful control” of the nearest relative. If they collect the body and later, a coroner has to be involved or the person mentioned in (b) decides to take “lawful control”, the nearest relative would have to allow the person who ranks above them to take control.

Two related court cases in 1841 and 1842, (mentioned above), prove that it is a criminal offence, to say that a body cannot be collected, unless something is done beforehand. In that case payment of a bill had been demanded. The same principle appears to apply if the production of any document is first demanded or anything else is demanded, e.g. that funeral arrangements first be made. Another way to think of this is to imagine what would happen in perfectly ordinary circumstances, if a child minder or school teacher refused to allow a parent to collect a child, unless a bill is first paid or a document of some sort is produced. In addition to long established law, hospital staff should stick like glue to health principles. Those demand that staff give urgent priority, to meeting emergency emotional needs. One of the most obvious emergency needs, may be to take the body home or to some other place. All hospitals should ensure that can be done, through one openly friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable member of staff.

If the cause of every death had to be known with total accuracy, doctors responsible for treatments up until the time of deaths could not complete medical certificates, about causes of deaths, because the reasons they give are often wrong. That has been proven by examinations carried out by pathologists. When a coroner may need to be consulted and has to decide whether they have “reasonable cause to suspect” that the death may not have been natural, they do not have control, until they make a decision to take control, e.g. hospital staff cannot prevent the collection of the body, just in case a coroner may later decide to take control. Hospital staff cannot behave as though they have more powers than a coroner, even for a few minutes or hours. If the coroner does take control, they must agree to the body being collected, when it is no longer needed to investigate the cause of any death and no longer needed as evidence about the cause of any death. Most agree to collections within a day or two, as most of their investigations just prove that deaths were natural. The most skilled coroners prove they have learnt from experience, so are less likely to intrude unnecessarily and are less likely to arrange unnecessary medical tests.

Never collect a body directly from a mortuary

Bereaved friends and relatives can be expected to feel very intimidated, not only by the unintended consequences of the body-ownership nonsense but also the incredibly strange settings of mortuaries. They can be very intimidating. They have been described by the eminent Scottish Professor Derrick Pounder, as “production-line abattoirs”, (national news 04 January 2011). The DoH has yet to advise that friends and relatives should never be expected to visit a mortuary, in order to collect a body. They should collect it from a room which looks as though it could be in anyone’s home and without having to walk down long, dismal and lifeless corridors. That is all the more important, if hospitals begin to help with the move towards more home deaths. Mortuary staff could play a valuable part, in helping to develop that new approach, in a way which joins up public services, with relatives using mortuaries for short periods, i.e. both delivering and collecting bodies.

Those who are newly bereaved are likely to feel intimidated if they have to deal with uneducated hospital staff, who cannot know if guidance from anyone or any organisation is deeply flawed. It is the uneducated and unskilled, who stick like glue to guidance and “We have always done it this way” routines. Those may be stale, harmful, inflexible and unlawful or illegal. A typical first line of defence is, “We must release the right body to the right person”. That is often said in a tone which sounds as though a request has been made to be given the wrong body! Hospital staff must be capable of handing over the correct body without delay or precondition, unless a coroner has already taken legal control. Uneducated staff do feel threatened, if they cannot stick to an inflexible routine, which can never be an excuse for breaking the law or the adoption of psychologically harmful practices.

Most of the information included in this section of the site has been provided by the Alice Barker Trust. Any errors are my own. This page was updated on November 5th 2013.