Mums to sign ashes contract after Mortonhall scandal

Mortonhall Crematoriou. Picture: Neil Hanna
Mortonhall Crematoriou. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A WRITTEN contract will be signed by mums and medics about what should be done with children’s remains under new rules drawn up following the baby ashes scandal.

Health bosses have also ruled that the records must be kept for a minimum of 50 years by the NHS to avoid similar failures where parents were unaware of their children’s remains being disposed.

The new guidelines have been issued by Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, and Fiona McQueen, interim chief nursing officer.

It said the revisions will place the patient at the centre of care and make the recording of their wishes “accurate, clear and accessible”.

Copies of the new guidelines have been sent out to the chief executives, directors of nursing, and heads of midwifery at all NHS boards in Scotland.

A nationwide investigation was launched in 2012 after the Evening News revealed that staff at Mortonhall Crematorium had mixed ashes of stillborn babies with those of adults.

The remains were unceremoniously buried in the 
crematorium’s gardens without the families’ consent or knowledge of the practice.

More than 250 families were affected by the practices, which sparked a judge-led inquiry in 2013.

Lord Bonomy’s report made 60 recommendations aimed at avoiding a “repetition of past failures”.

An investigation was also started in Aberdeen after an audit found the ashes of up to 40 babies had been scattered in Hazelhead’s Garden of Remembrance without families being consulted.

The new guidelines read: “These revisions take account of the recommendations within Lord Bonomy’s Infant Cremation Commission Report.

“Care should be patient centred, with the appropriate information provided in an accessible form as required.

“The disposal option chosen by the woman who has experienced the pregnancy loss must be authorised in writing by the woman who has experienced the pregnancy loss from a clearly displayed list of available options.

“Relevant staff must be provided with the required information to provide the required support to the women who have experienced a pregnancy loss and to their families.

“The responsibility for maintaining a record of the disposal rests with the NHS Board and this record should be kept for a minimum of 50 years.

“Any documentation signed by, and leaflets available to, the woman who has experienced the pregnancy loss should clearly advise that no ashes will be available for collection following a shared cremation, as these will be the ashes of more than one pregnancy loss.”

A “designated contact point” for patients who want to change their mind will also be made available and will give clear information about whether there will be ashes to collect.

The guidelines are to affect all losses up to 24 weeks.

newsen@edinburghnews.com