Information alert

If you need a large print, audio, braille, easy-read, age-friendly or translated copy of this page, email the patient information team at uclh.patientinformation@nhs.net. We will do our best to meet your needs.

This page aims to explain what happens next including what happens if a death will be investigated by a coroner. It also provides details of the processes involved if you have any concerns about the care we provided and gives you practical advice, support, and information.

If you require paperwork urgently for religious reasons, please inform the clinical team who will do all they can to support this where possible.

It is important for us to know if you don’t understand any of the information we provide. Please tell us at any stage if we need to explain things more fully.

For all hospital sites:

Medical Examiner’s Office: The medical examiner (ME) service is situated at University College London Hospital on Euston Road.
Email: uclh.medicalexaminer@nhs.net or call 020 3447 5129 (Monday to Friday 10:00-15:00)
Mortuary: 020 3447 3568 (Monday to Friday 09:00 – 15:45 to arrange viewings within working hours)
Switchboard: 020 3456 7890 (24 hours)
Chaplaincy: 020 3447 3007 (or via Switchboard if urgent)
End of Life Care Team email: uclh.transformingeolcteam@nhs.net (for help finding bereavement support)

For patients at UCLH Main Hospital Site, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery or Grafton Way Building:

Camden Register Office: 020 7974 4444 (for appointments and more information, choose the option for registrars)
Website: www.camden.gov.uk/register-a-death 
St Pancras Coroner’s Court website: www.camden.gov.uk/coroners-service

For patients at Westmoreland Street:

UCH Westmoreland Street Patient Affairs: 020 3456 3006 (Monday to Friday, 09:00 – 16:30)
Westminster Register Office: 020 7641 7500
Website: www.westminster.gov.uk/registrars
Westminster Coroner’s Court: 020 7641 1212

The medical examiner (ME) or medical examiners officer (MEO) will call you or your nominated person as soon as possible, within 3 working days following the death of your loved one.

You will need to speak with the medical examiner before you make an appointment with the registrar of deaths to register the death. If you prefer, you can email the medical examiner to let them know the best way of contacting you (uclh.medicalexaminer@nhs.net). The medical examiner service at UCLH is a service to help families understand the cause of their loved one’s death.

The medical examiner:

  • is a senior doctor
  • is independent (has no prior knowledge of the patient)
  • will scrutinise documents and circumstances surrounding deaths
  • will ensure the death is referred to the coroner’s office where necessary
  • will contact relatives to discuss the care of their loved one
  • will link families with teams who cared for their loved one
  • will help coordinate cremation forms and free from infection forms
  • is fully trained by the Royal College of Pathologists in the medical examiner role.

Medical examiners and their staff offer families and carers an opportunity to raise questions or concerns about the cause of death of a loved one, or about the care they received. They can help explain medical language on the death certificate to make it easier to understand.

Medical examiners will look at the relevant medical records and discuss the causes of death with the doctor who is responsible for filling in the medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD). If medical examiners find any potential areas of concern, they raise these with staff responsible for the care of the person who died or refer these concerns on to someone who can investigate further.

You can be confident and assured that the medical examiners will provide an independent view. They are only assigned to cases if they or their staff have not been involved in the care of the specified patient. Speaking with the medical examiner and their staff can also help to improve the care provided by the NHS to other patients and carers in future.

The medical examiner (ME) service is sensitive to the requirements of different faiths following death. They work closely with the various faith leaders to ensure they can provide a service for all patients. The ME service will allow the death to be registered and the body to be released as soon as possible once the medical examiner review is complete.

Sometimes the case needs to be referred to the coroner, in those cases the timeline will be the responsibility of the coroner and their team.

After a patient has died, the nursing staff caring for them will wash and dress them in a shroud. If you would like to assist with this process or would not like your loved one to be washed, then please let the nurse in charge know. We will always do the best to preserve the dignity of our patients, and respect their cultural and spiritual wishes. Your loved one will then be transferred to the UCLH mortuary.

If you would like to arrange viewing in the mortuary, please contact them on 020 3447 3568 (Monday to Friday 09.00 – 15.45 to arrange viewings within working hours). We aim to transfer your relative from the ward within four hours.

Please spend as much of this time as you wish with your loved one on the ward and let us know if there is anyone else that may want to come to visit/view your relative.

During exceptional times (as occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic), there may be restrictions on visiting. Please check with the nurse in charge for the most up to date information on visiting.

Please take any of your relative’s belongings with you at any time from the ward. If you are leaving/taking any valuables on/from the patient, such as jewellery, please let the nursing team know so that there is a record of this.

People who die within a hospital setting can enhance, transform, and save the lives of others, through potential organ and tissue donation. Organ donation can take place from a limited number of people who die within a critical care environment, whilst on advanced respiratory support, including a ventilator.

The medical team will ensure specialist nurses are present to talk to you if your relative dies in a way which means they could potentially donate their organs. The specialist nurse will be present for the ongoing support of both you and your relative.

Tissue donation can occur after death from the mortuary, with the best time for this being within 24 to 48 hours after someone has died. Organ and tissue donation is always completed with the upmost dignity and care and conducted with the same respect attributed to any operation or procedure. Donation does not incur any costs nor prevent relatives from saying goodbye or affect funeral arrangements.

If tissue donation is something you would like to consider on behalf of your loved one, please speak to the clinical team, or call the National Referral Centre for Tissue Services on 0800 432 0559. Donation of a body to medical science is a process that must begin before someone dies. The patient must have signed a consent form prior to death.

More information, including frequently asked questions, can be found on the Human Tissue Authority website.

Some deaths must be referred to the coroner, for example, if where there is no clear cause of death. This is a legal requirement and the process includes patients of all faiths. If this should happen the coroner will look at the case and decide what happens next. They may order an examination called a post-mortem to find out the exact cause of death.

The coroner will also decide whether an inquest is needed, which is a "fact finding" exercise that aims to find out the reasons for someone's death. The Medical Examiner’s office will inform you if we have referred the death to the coroner. If we do not refer a death to the coroner, but you have concerns about the treatment we provided, you can contact the coroner to request that they consider holding an inquest. It is a good idea to do this as soon as possible after your loved one has died, as delays in requesting an inquest may mean that opportunities for the coroner to hold a post-mortem are lost. The staff at the coroner's office are very helpful and will answer any questions you may have.

Each patient will be allocated their own coroner’s officer. They will call the next of kin (NOK) or representative to explain what is going to happen and answer any questions you may have. They will give you their contact details, so you are able to call if you need to. This is a legal process, and no one can refuse a coroner’s post-mortem or inquest.

If the coroner is involved, a certificate to register the cause of death will be given to the registrar by the coroner. The timeframe of this process will vary depending on the course of action decided by the coroner. If the coroner decides that there is enough information to complete a medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD) the medical examiners officer will inform you of the decision and all paperwork will be completed at the hospital.

Once the medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD) has been issued you will need to make an appointment at the registrar’s office to register the death.

It is not necessary to register the death yourself. The registrar’s office will issue the formal death certificate. A relative or other person can be nominated by the NOK to register the death.

It may be helpful to have the following information ready in advance of this discussion:

  • The date and place of death
  • The full name of the deceased (including maiden or other names)
  • The deceased’s date and place of birth
  • The deceased’s occupation (in cases where the deceased is female, the registrar will also ask the name and occupation of her husband)
  • The deceased’s usual address
  • Whether the deceased is in receipt of a pension or allowance from public funds  
  • If the deceased was married, the date of birth of the surviving partner
  • If you have it, the deceased’s NHS number (this can be found on a hospital letter).

You may contact a funeral director as soon as you wish, though a death certificate will be needed to make firm arrangements. Funeral directors will be able to give you support and advice on many of the things you need to think about.

The hospital does not recommend or endorse any firms however www.yourfuneralchoice.com is a website that helps identify funeral directors in your local area. You can ask any funeral director for an estimate of cost before making your decision. Many people ask at least two firms for a quote as charges can vary a lot.

To apply for bereavement and funeral benefits from the DWP – the Bereavement Benefit Line is on 0800 151 2012. Guidance on help available with funeral costs is available at www.gov.uk/funeral-payments

People experience many different emotions in bereavement. These may include sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt, denial, relief, and fear. These feelings are all very normal and there is no “right” way to feel.

Grief is a very individual process and each of us reacts differently. It is common for people to need some extra support when dealing with grief. This NHS website provides some useful information.

Cruse is one of many organisations that provides support. You could also make an appointment to see your GP.

Please email the End of Life Care Team if you would like further information around bereavement support uclh.transformingeolcteam@nhs.net.

Speaking with children about death can feel very difficult. It may help if you can choose a place which is familiar to them, where you can give them your full attention, without distractions or interruptions.

Try to avoid bedtime if possible. Give the child the facts in a simple manner using words such as ‘died’ or ‘dead’ instead of ‘sleeping’ or ‘lost’. Give them a chance to ask questions.

Children can react in different ways, often depending on their level of understanding. Before the age of three or four, most children will not understand the meaning of death and may go through times when they appear to be unaffected. Having said that, children often know and understand far more than we give them credit for so it may not be helpful to hide information from them to try to ‘protect’ them.

Try to encourage children to talk about or express their feelings by talking about yours. It is helpful for adults to tell the child that they too have feelings of sadness by doing this the child learns that it is ok to cry or feel sad when someone dies. Reading, drawing, and playing games can be helpful.

There are various people and organisations that need to be told about the death, for example, the bank. Tell Us Once is a service that lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. See website: www.gov.uk/after-a-death/organisations-you-need-to-contact-and-tell-us-once.

Please note that you are strongly advised to ask for the bereavement department when contacting any company on this list, most of these organisations will have one.

They should deal with your call in a more timely and compassionate manner compared with the usual forms of contact.

Providing feedback: Receiving feedback from families helps us to understand how to improve the care we give. If you would like to provide any feedback on care, whether positive or negative, please speak to the nurse in charge of the ward and/or fill in the bereavement survey on the back of this leaflet.

Feedback can also be given while speaking with the medical examiner.

Raising concerns: It is important to us that you feel able to ask any questions or raise any concerns regarding the care your loved one received. Please share concerns with the medical examiner’s office in the first instance (uclh.medicalexaminer@nhs.net). They may be able to answer any straightforward questions.

Following discussion with the medical examiner, if you are still dissatisfied with the care and the explanations received and would like to make a complaint, you can contact the complaints team on 020 3447 7413 or via email uclh.complaints@nhs.net.

If you would like to provide the hospital with information about your experience, please access the survey here. Please note, this link works best in Google Chrome.

If you have any questions in relation to this survey, or require any help in completing the questionnaire, then please contact the Transforming End of Life Care Team on 0203 4477 842 or email uclh.transformingeolcteam@nhs.net


Page last updated: 23 May 2024

Review due: 01 January 2025