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Update: vaccination of frontline funeral workers

Through our work with local resilience forums/partnerships across England, Wales and Scotland and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, progress is being made on access to priority vaccination for frontline funeral staff.

In a number of areas of England, including Essex and Cheshire, we have corrected inaccurate information about funeral worker eligibility, while in others – including parts of Yorkshire – we have provided information about local firms to help ensure funeral staff are included in planning.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has now issued a letter, which we have passed to all members in Northern Ireland, detailing how to access priority vaccination for funeral staff.

It remains, though, a very localised process. In some areas, the LRF has coordinated an approach and/or local health services have already circulated links to book appointments (for example Derbyshire and Powys, Wales). In other areas, including in some parts of Scotland, the process still is less defined.

This is proving very frustrating, but we are getting there. Don’t worry if colleagues in other parts of the country are getting vaccinated but you and your staff do not yet have appointments. Much like the experience of other priority groups, things are happening at a different pace in different areas.

Some funeral firms have been able to access vaccination appointments through professional contacts, where unused appointments have become available at the end of a session. This is positive, but we would urge any funeral firms contacted to only accept this offer where it will not impede any Priority 1 recipients (or frontline NHS staff) from rightly being vaccinated first.

The government has reiterated its request to Deceased Management Advisory Group members for funeral staff to avoid swamping the system with individual enquiries – but wait to be booked in via their employer. We are monitoring what the different regions are doing – and working with Government to try and put some consistency around the process.

What is a ‘frontline funeral operative’

In addition to embalmers and mortuary workers, who are separately highlighted in the guidance, we are working with the other members of DMAG and Government to agree a definition of ‘frontline funeral operative’  – which is needs to be considerably wider than the name suggests. There is a separate definition set by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which is detailed in the letter.

What can you do now to be ready?

  1. Remain in touch with your local resilience forum rep who will be able to pass on information as the process is defined in your area. Where the NAFD is advised of the process, we will also make sure this is circulated locally. If you don’t know who represents funeral directors on your LRF, please email us.
  2. Employers should also give consideration to categories of staff who will be put forward for vaccination, so that you are ready for when the opportunity to book presents itself. We are aware that some firms have been asked to provide a spreadsheet which includes:
  • Full name
  • Job role
  • Date of birth
  • NHS number
  • Mobile phone or contact number.
  1. Prior to their vaccine appointment, you should ensure nominated staff have the identifying information they need. You may wish to have ready a letter that you can give them, confirming their identity, role and employment with you. Once the definition of ‘Frontline funeral operative’ is agreed with Government we will provide a template letter, which you may find helpful.

 

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