These important legal documents should be completed promptly after death in order to ensure that there are no delays in funeral arrangements. The medical certificate of the cause of death (MCCD) books are provided on each hospital ward, and they should be completed as soon as possible if the death does not need to be reported to the coroner (see below). It is important that the guidelines laid down at the front of the books are followed and that the cause of death is accurately given. Abbreviations (e.g. CCF, CVA) and modes of dying (e.g. organ failure, coma, syncope) must not be used.
As most bodies are cremated, the doctor who has cared for the individual in the final illness must complete the first part of the Cremation Form (Form-4 – Certificate of the Medical Attendant). This will usually be completed by the doctor who has previously completed the Death Certificate and all questions must be answered. The doctor who fills out the first part of the cremation form must make themselves available for contact over the next 48 hours (e.g. by pager or mobile phone) as the law requires that the doctor completing the second part of the form (Form-5) must discuss the case with him/her.
Delays or errors in completion of these forms may lead to postponement of the funeral and additional distress to relatives of the deceased.
Following a Death in Hospital
Following confirmation of death, Last Offices should be carried out in compliance with the Trust Policy Care of the Deceased Patient. Further details are available in the Trust Guidance Document Handling of Cadavers.
Once the patient is prepared, Serco must be contacted to convey the deceased to the Mortuary unless your own dedicated portering staff are available.
Reporting deaths to the coroner
In general all deaths not entirely due to natural causes or where a cause of death is unknown should be reported to the Coroner, including the following circumstances:
The Plymouth Coroner (and his/her officers) can be contacted during working days 08.00 and 16.00 on 01752 439679 and (01752) 439681(internal: x39679 & x39681) and it is useful to have the case notes available when calling. The Coroner may either advise you on how to complete the death certificate or order an autopsy in order to establish a cause of death. Coroner’s autopsies do not require the consent of relatives, however, the Coroner will liaise closely with the relatives so as to keep them fully informed. If there is any doubt as to the need to report a death to the Coroner, then his/her office should be contacted and the case discussed.
More detailed guidance from the Coroner on the reporting of deaths are available from the clerks on all wards and from the Bereavement Office during normal working hours (01752) 439492 (internal: x39492). Results of the post mortem examination can be obtained with permission of the Coroner.
Please note that the Coronial system in England is under review.