What to do when someone has died

The procedure to be followed when someone has died will vary depending on the circumstances of the death, a brief summary is given below for information but please always remember that people are around to help and guide you through the process.

What happens when someone dies in a hospital or hospice

  • You will initially be referred to a Bereavement Office in the first instance.
  • Assuming there is no requirement for a coroner the Bereavement Office arrange for a Medical Cause of Death Certificate.
  • Often the bereavement office can also arrange for you to register the death at the same time. If not you will need to contact the local Register Office to do this separately.
  • The deceased will be moved to a hospital mortuary until arrangements can be made for them to be looked after either by a funeral director or family member

What happens when someone dies at home

  • Ring the GP surgery in the first instance so a doctor can come and confirm the death.
  • Assuming there is no need for a coroner to be involved the deceased can be left at home to be looked after by yourselves or collected by a local funeral director. Most funeral directors operate a 24 hour service to do this so simply give them a call when you are ready.
  • Collect a Medical Cause of Death Certificate from the GP surgery, this can sometimes take a day or two
  • Make an appointment with the local Registry Office.

If someone dies in a care home or nursing home

  • A GP or other medical professional will confirm the death has occurred.
  • Assuming there is no need for coroner involvement the staff will liaise with you regarding where you would like the deceased to be removed to.
  • If the staff at the home are aware of a preferred funeral director they will arrange for them to collect.  If you are not using a funeral director you will need to make arrangements remove the deceased yourself to another suitable location.

If someone dies unexpectedly

  • A coroner will become involved.
  • If the death is outside, as part of a road traffic accident, or some other kind of incident the police will also be involved.
  • In these cases the deceased will need to be removed to a hospital mortuary until the coroner has completed their enquiries regarding the cause of death.
  • The Coroner will be able to advise about the procedure for registering a death, this may cause some delay depending on the circumstances

If a coroner is involved

A coroner will become involved if the death is unexpected, unexplained or part of a wider incident but there are other less obvious triggers that may result in a coroner being called. These may include:

  • A death where a GP hasn’t seen the patient within the 2 weeks period prior to death
  • The death of someone who has been subject to a ‘Deprivation of Liberty’ order. This can sometimes apply to people in nursing homes.
  • Death as a result of a recent operation

Do not worry if a coroner is involved, sometimes they may simply need to discuss the circumstances of death with those involved. If this happens the deceased can often be released fairly quickly and funeral arrangements can commence with little or no delay.

In cases where a post mortem is needed then there is typically a delay of a few days before the results are known.

In cases where the death is due to violence, unnatural or unknown causes or where it occurs in legal custody (such as with a ‘Deprivation of Liberty’ order) there will need to be an inquest to establish the facts around the death.

In all cases the coroner will keep close family members informed at all stages and will be able to advise you about Registering the death and when the funeral can proceed.

Medical Examiner certification for Cremation

If you are arranging a cremation then an additional set of papers are required  called the Medical Examiner Certification for Cremation. Often simply referred to as ‘the doctor’s papers’ these will be organised for you by the hospital or the GP depending on where the death occurred. Funeral Directors typically collect these forms on your behalf but if you are not using a funeral director you will be able to get advice about what to do from the crematorium you are going to use.

"The fact we could organise a Celebration of Life just how we wanted, to say goodbye and respect his wishes was very important.  The day itself was amazing. Friends said I didn’t know you could do this sort of thing.  It was a day we will never forget." SR