All medical doctors practicing within the UK need to be General Medical Council (GMC) registered. This means that if they come under investigation or are proven to have behaved in a way deemed to be misconduct they can be suspended or ultimately taken off this register, and therefore are unable to practice any longer. This is something that keeps us all safe and ensures that you can have faith in your doctor acting in a way that is in your interest. Many different occupations and services require this form of registration or regulation, with clear definitions of who can practice what being laid out in order to ensure our safety. However, with Anatomical Pathology Technologists (APTs) who staff our mortuaries this is not the case. In fact, although there are strong definitions of what a qualified APT should be and what qualifications they should have, this is not a protected title. Hence, anyone is able to call themselves an APT and practice, although thankfully this is uncommon.
Of course, the majority of APTs do have the relevant qualifications and practice in the way you would hope. Some of us, myself included, have taken a form of voluntary registration. I have Registered Science Technician status with the Science Council, proving I fulfilled certain criteria and demonstrating that I keep my training and professional development up to date. Most job advertisements for APT roles will specify the RSPH Level 3 Diploma qualification as being needed for a qualified position, and follow the training route to the Level 4 diploma. I am confident in saying that nearly all of the APTs within the UK follow this without question, and practice in a way that you or your loved ones would be pleased to be treated with after death. This is kept in place by those already in these roles hiring people who truly care about the profession and the deceased,
However, this is not a legal requirement yet. There is no strict definition in regulation which states any of this is needed. In fact, its fairly clear that it would be entirely plausible for someone to take on people with no previous experience and perform very basic training before allowing them to complete technical aspects of the APT role. This could even include post mortem evisceration with no formal training or qualifications in addition. Without a clear description of the training needed, only that some form of training is required, a simple competency assessment could be completed for this work and possibly suffice.
Mortuaries in the UK come under a lot of scrutiny, especially by the media, and rightly so in situations where misconduct needs to be addressed and prevented from happening again. I firmly believe that when we are dead we are in one of our most vulnerable times which subjects us to a number of possibilities of unsafe behaviour. Without going into too much detail around this, this covers abuse in a number of ways, but also the theft of any personal property or simply just not the kind of care that you would want. By care I mean a wide range of different things, but at a very basic level I mean in clean linen and lying in a clean state within a monitored refrigerated area until collection by the allocated funeral director. A thorough and in depth training course for APTs means that those who practice are the perfect people for this role because they care about the deceased and are getting into the job for the right reasons. Our training covers a multitude of skills which range widely from the scientific aspects to the communication skills required to discuss our work with people of varying levels of understanding and expertise.
It scares me to think that someone close to me could potentially not receive this level of care, that nothing written in law protects the deceased from being subject to anything less than the quality of care that the APTs I know and trust pride themselves on. I hope that this explains this thoroughly, but if anyone does have any questions around this please do ask them below or contact me. I’m more than happy to delve into this further and discuss why this matters so much to me.