YOUR article about cremation forms seems, by your own admission, based more on guesswork than real data ('Ash cash' a nice earner for doctors - January 21). It is also offensive to doctors.
The requirement for doctors to carry out thorough assessments on the deceased before a cremation takes place is a legal one and doctors take it seriously. I am sure relatives are reassured that these checks are made.
Far from just 'signing simple forms', as you put it, doctors are required to fill in a complex form approved by the Ministry of Justice and also interview crucial individuals, including relatives, nursing staff and on occasions the deceased's own doctor. They are legally required to be satisfied that the cause of death on the medical certificate is correct, and if they are not satisfied, make their reasons clear.
The trust is not required to keep figures of the number of cremation forms signed by its doctors. We did point out to your reporter that, in calculating these numbers, simply to extract the Hillingdon Hospital figure from the total cremation figure would be misleading because many people die at home or in nursing homes and hospices, not in hospital. And families may choose to have a cremation where other loved ones were also cremated, even if it is not close to their home.
For a newspaper to make the statement that 'if doctors in Harrow did claim our estimated amount, it would put those at NWLHT among the greatest profiteers of all 171 trusts in the country' is both offensive and meaningless, as you do not have the data to support your guesswork. And your opening statement - 'Doctors in Harrow may have scooped more than £200,000 last year' - is equally unsupported by any evidence.
Doctors do not 'scoop' or 'profit' from this important and necessary process, which is enshrined in law to protect families at a time of great distress.
FIONA WISE Chief executive North-West London Hospitals Trust
EDITOR'S NOTE: The trust told the Harrow Observer they would find out how many cremation forms were signed off by its doctors before the article appeared. As we went to press yesterday, this information had not been provided. Doctors do profit from filling in the forms and the fee is paid to them.