By Nigel Cooper,

Head of Quality Risk and Compliance

The New Year is always a busy time of year for the 4,000 funeral homes that IFSO’s four-strong team of inspectors looks after – and a busy time for the IFSO team too. As we complete our operational planning for the year ahead, we are always conscious that we use your time and that of your team wisely, to maximise the positive outcomes for quality standards in each NAFD member funeral home. These considerations guide our focus and priorities which, for me, can be summed up in three words – efficiency, thoroughness and risk.

We know that the most valuable thing we do as a team is get out and about, across the UK, inspecting member businesses. And this is something that continues to gather pace. Inspecting against our far more detailed inspections framework, we are now averaging around 81 inspections a month – an average, per team member, of 2.4 inspections a day – taking account of the number of inspection days we have during the course of a normal working year.

We can only do this by working efficiently. In September last year we implemented a new CRM system which now enables the collation and analysis of substantive amounts of data. It allows you to better understand your own compliance picture as a business, and highlights trends in the data it produces, which informs our approach going forward, enabling us to deploy our limited resources effectively and efficiently.

Put simply, it allows us to assess compliance and risk. We want to ensure our inspections are valuable, fair and equitable, as this will enable us to focus on areas where improvement may be required and on businesses that may benefit from a bit more support and input than others. We utilise a flexible and risk-based approach to inspection interval timing too. Rather than the traditional biennial approach, where we would routinely visit a funeral director every two years, we now are more agile in our timings, based on the level of risk assessed in relation to a funeral home – which is evidenced in a number of ways – including, but no longer just restricted to, the previous inspection outcome.

Since we have introduced our new approach to inspection and compliance reporting, and been inspecting against the new Code, we have begun to see trends in compliance – and this is informing our priority focus areas for 2024. Storage of cremated remains has been highlighted, as has the provision of estimates, procedures for transfer of the deceased and, naturally, given the Fuller Inquiry, tracking and security of mortuary facilities. We also continue to monitor high level compliance with the CMA Funerals Market Order, to ensure funeral homes are being open and transparent about pricing, terms of business and service provision.

Unlike the CMA Order, which is very prescriptive, compliance with the Funeral Director Code is based on outcomes – what you achieve. The idea behind the Code is to give businesses the chance to develop and innovate in the way they achieve high standards. Having said that, if you simply prefer to follow the indicative behaviours set out in the Code, you will likely find yourself compliant!

I know I speak for the whole IFSO team, Natalie, David, Gary and myself, when I say how grateful we are for the openness and transparency of your response to inspections, on almost every occasion. We are all, as a team, experienced in funeral operations and have worked in the industry, so we understand the difficulties and the pressures on funeral directors. We appreciate that, if somebody is having a busy day, we might not be the first person they want to see at nine o’clock in the morning, but we want to reassure that we will always be respectful of your team and particularly if you are supporting client families at the time of our visit. But we do feel that everyone understands the importance and benefit of the work we do and for that I would like to thank NAFD members. We look forward to seeing you in your businesses in the coming months.