What is Deathcare in the UK?

Deathcare is a term that is used to describe any business or organisation that provides products or services related to death. Examples of deathcare include crematoria, coffin makers, headstone suppliers, and of course, funeral directors. Every business or organisation that is involved in the improvement of death-related services is also considered part of the deathcare industry.

The UK Deathcare Industry

A modern hearse outside a church
Photo by Patrick Quinn / Unsplash

The deathcare industry is one that is shrouded in mystery for many people. For many parts of society, the act of dying and the concept of death are treated as taboo subjects. This feeling of unease and discomfort around the topic of death increases its mysterious qualities. As such, the deathcare industry and how it operates is unclear to many people.

For customers seeking the services of the deathcare industry, they are likely to be experiencing one of the most challenging times in their lives. Arranging a funeral and dealing with all the associated paperwork and tasks can be highly distressing. Coupled with a feeling of uncertainty about how to perform these tasks, it is fair to say that most people feel overwhelmed by the practical processes required when a loved one dies.

The deathcare industry exists to take care of the practicalities of a person dying but also to offer a service sensitive to the needs of their loved ones. Those businesses operating within the deathcare sector have a high level of responsibility and a duty to provide the highest level of service at all times. As such, the deathcare industry is unique and faces challenges not experienced by other sectors.

The UK Deathcare Industry Statistics

Pins in a map of destinations in England
Photo by Paul Marlow / Unsplash

Despite the fact that many people try to avoid the subject of death, its presence is unavoidable. Death forms part of everyday life, and as such, the UK is home to a large number of deathcare services and businesses that take care of every aspect of the after-death process. Here is a snapshot of the UK deathcare industry in numbers:

●      According to the Worldwide Population Review, in the UK, there are 1,679 deaths per day (as of 30/11/2022).

●      The Cremation Societystates that as of 2021, there are 315 crematoriums in the UK.

●      Figures from The Cremation Society also show that in 2021, 78.40% of the deceased were cremated.

●      According to figures from IBIS World, the UK funeral industry is worth £2.7 billionand employs almost 31,000 people in the UK.

As these statistics show, deathcare is a big business and an industry that will always be in demand. But, like every industry, the deathcare sector must continue to evolve to provide the highest level of service to both the deceased and their families. Below we will examine the changes that the deathcare industry is facing and how this impacts the future of the industry.

Changes in the UK Deathcare Industry

There is no escaping the fact that everyone will need the services of the deathcare industry at some point. The deathcare industry is uniquely placed, and few other industries can claim that everyone on the planet will one day require their services. Although deathcare services will always be needed, this does not mean that there is room for complacency within the industry.

Funerals and the subject of deathcare have followed traditional practices for many years, but times are now changing. Funeral directors, and the industry at large, must meet these changes to enable them to continue operating successfully. Here are some of the recent changes that have been introduced to deathcare:

Introduction of New Technology

A woman watches a funeral ceremony remotely on a laptop computer.
Photo by The Good Funeral Guide / Unsplash

New services such as funeral streaming and virtual ceremonies have begun to appear and look likely to stay. The connections to the recently departed are increasingly international and technology is bridging that physical gap.

Meanwhile the introduction of funeral management software has already helped funeral businesses streamline their offering and operate more efficiently. With less time spent on paperwork and admin, this new breed of software enables funeral directors to focus on building their businesses. Tasks such as sending quotes and invoices can be performed from anywhere, whether out on a call or at home. Utilising funeral management software will enable funeral directors to enjoy the same potential for hybrid working as many other industries that now offer opportunities to work from home.

New CMA Rules and FCA Regulation

Following a review, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that by September 2021, funeral directors must introduce greater transparency in their pricing. This new rule was implemented in part to prevent consumers from being faced with hidden costs. The rule will also address the issue of how bereaved families can be advised on buying funeral services by funeral directors during their time of distress. This increased transparency should reduce the prevalence of hidden costs, confusion about pricing and should foster a more consistent, standardised pricing structure throughout the industry. Going forward, funeral directors and crematoria are required to list their pricing structure on their websites and at their premises.

Under the new rules, funeral directors will also no longer be allowed to make incentive payments to hospitals, hospices, and care homes to promote their services. For many funeral directors who didn't undertake these practices in the first place, this effectively levels the playing field for them.

FCA regulation also came into force as of 2022. The FCA will now directly oversee the selling of funeral plans to ensure that they are not mis-sold to consumers. These new regulatory powers will encourage greater transparency in the sale of funeral plans and the receipt of the actual plan itself.

Increased Eco-Awareness

A cardboard coffin with handwritten tributes and messages.
Photo by The Good Funeral Guide / Unsplash

The impact that the deathcare industry has on the environment has been subject to much debate in recent years. Responding to calls for the industry to make changes to become greener is essential. Right now, there are many new ideas being discussed on how the industry as a whole can become greener. Some of these changes could significantly impact the sector. Others, such as the reduction of paperwork, are part of the inevitable technological advancement in the industry. To ensure continued demand for their services, companies engaged in deathcare need to be at the forefront of these changes, taking the lead and evolving accordingly.

For forward-thinking UK deathcare businesses, the future is bright. Implementing changes required by increased regulatory powers and adapting to new technology may take time. But, if this is embraced, there are many opportunities for funeral businesses to thrive.