Bereaved families are waiting more than three weeks to bury their loved ones, funeral directors are warning.
Staff shortages mean just 3.4 percent of services take place within a week as delays become the norm.
More than half have to wait 21 days to pay their last respects – and one in six wait four weeks.
And delays in getting death certificates signed by doctors have grown significantly since the start of the pandemic, a report by the National Association of Funeral Directors found.
But the shortage of pathologists is causing the greatest distress as post-mortem exam delays means bodies are left in too bad a condition to be viewed by loved ones.
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Funeral director of 15 years Richard Whale was left “horrified” by the condition his father was in after three postponements.
Raymond, 72, died on April 13 but it took 22 days for a post-mortem examination.
It then took another 12 days to register the death from a pulmonary thrombosis. His funeral finally took place on Wednesday.
Mr Whale said: “All our family wanted to view him but I said it was not advisable.”
NAFD chief executive Andrew Judd said: “The system is letting families down. We would like to see a proactive and joined-up approach from across government to tackling these problems and prevent more families from having to wait weeks to lay a loved one to rest.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are working to address issues and reduce waiting times for services.”