This information is for families, friends and carers of people who have died in Kingston Hospital.
It is a practical guide explaining the process for registering a death.
When someone dies in hospital, a senior doctor called as Medical Examiner or Medical Examiner Officer reviews the person’s medical records and speaks to the medical team involved in their care.
The Medical Examiner’s role is to give advice about the cause of death. To remain independent, they will not do this for patients whose care they were involved with.
If the Medical Examiner or Medical Examiner Officer believes there may be issues about care or uncertainty about the cause of death, they will begin an investigation. This helps us to improve quality of care for other patients and their families in the future and we hope it will also reassure you.
The Medical Examiner or Medical Examiner Officer needs to be satisfied about the cause of death before a doctor can issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD). This is explained in the next section.
The Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD)
When the cause of death is agreed by the Medical Examiner or Medical Examiner Officer, the doctor who treated the person during their last illness issues the MCCD and send it directly to the Kingston Register Office.
If the Medical Examiner does not need to investigate further to establish the cause of death, the doctor will issue the MCCD as quickly as possible, normally within a few days.
An investigation into the cause of death usually involves one or more of the following:
a referral to the West London Coroner
an autopsy (also known as a post-mortem)
an inquest or hearing.
These are explained in the next section.
Referral to the Coroner
Sometimes the Medical Examiner refers a death to the Coroner even if the doctor who delivered care has a view about the cause of death.
The Coroner will check the person’s medical documentation and decide if they agree with the doctor about cause of death.
Sometimes the Coroner will ask for an autopsy. A pathologist (a doctor who specialises in the nature and causes of disease) will then carry out a medical examination to decide the exact cause of death. This is normally carried out at the hospital.
If the cause of death is still uncertain after the autopsy, the Coroner may hold an inquest. This is a type of meeting which aims to find out how, when and where someone died. The Coroner’s Office will guide you through this process.
Normally, the Coroner will issue a interim death certificate after an autopsy so the funeral can take place before the inquest. However, you will not be able to register the death or collect copies of the death certificate until after the inquest.
Once the Coroner confirms the medical cause of death either from reviewing the medical documentation, after an autopsy or after an inquest, they will pass this on to the Kingston Register Office. The Register Office will then contact you to make an appointment to register the death. This is explained in the next section.
Registering the death
Who should register the death at a register office?
The person making funeral arrangements, the next of kin, or someone present at the death must go to a register office in person and officially register the death.
You can do this once the register office has the MCCD or equivalent approval from the Coroner.
Kingston Register Office will contact you to make an appointment.
When shall I register the death?
Unless there is an autopsy or an inquest, you need to register the person’s death within 5 days of the date of their death.
Which register office can I go to?
You may go to any convenient register office. However, the MCCD or Coroner’s documents will always be sent to the Kingston Register Office. They can post them to your preferred register office, but this will cause a short delay.
The address of the Kingston Register Office is in the Contacts section below.
What do I need to take with me to register the death?
The register office will let you know exactly what to bring.
It is likely that you will need proof or your own identity plus the person’s full name and previous names, date and place of birth, last address, name of their spouse or civil partner, and information about whether the person received a state pension or benefits.
What will happen at the register office?
Once the registrar has all the information they need, they will give you the following documents.
The certificate of burial or cremation (the Green Form) which the register office will send electronically to your chosen funeral director so they can make the funeral arrangements
Copies of the death certificate so you can notify the person’s bank, utility company and others who need to know about their death. These are usually returned, but most people find it useful to have multiple copies to help with this administration. Copies cost £11 each (although this may change in the future).
‘Tell us once’ unique reference number. This makes it easy to notify multiple government organisations of a death.
Contacting the Bereavement Office
As soon as you feel able to after the person has died, contact the Bereavement Office in the hospital.
PALS and Bereavement Officers will:
help you to understand what happens next
answer any questions you may have
check to see if the MCCD is ready
contact you as soon as the MCCD has been sent to the Kingston Register Office
if you give them the name of your chosen funeral director, they can complete a release form and pass it to the mortuary team; this allows the funeral director to collect the person
ask if you have any concerns about how the person was cared for in hospital; the PALS and Bereavement Officer will look into your concerns and offer support and advice.
If the office is closed, you can leave a phone message with your name and contact details on their answer machine. A PALS and Bereavement Officer will contact you by the next working day.
What if I need the MCCD quickly for religious, spiritual or cultural reasons?
If you need the MCCD quickly, ask a member of staff to contact the on-call Mortuary Technician. If they get through to the answer phone, they will leave a message and the technician will contact you on the same day. Our ward staff will explain what happens next.
Can I visit the mortuary to view the person who has died?
If you would like to arrange to view the person who has died whilst they are in the mortuary, call the mortuary and make an appointment. Their contact details are in Contacts section below.
Your funeral director will also arrange for you to view the person in their premises.
If the person’s death has been referred to the Coroner, we need permission for a viewing from the the Coroner’s office by email or phone. If the Coroner agrees, they might advise that you do this behind a glass screen.
You can contact the Coroner yourself using the details in Contacts below.
What happens to the personal belongings of the person who has died
Ward staff will pack up the person’s personal belongings. You may collect these at any time if you are in the hospital building.
If no one collects the person’s belongings, ward staff will post them to the person named as next of kin on the hospital system.
If you have any queries or concerns about the person’s property, contact the Ward Manager.
Other useful resources
Grief is a natural response. If you would like to to talk to someone, there are a number of free services available.
Cruse National Helpline (www.cruse.org.uk) 0808 808 1677
Kingston Bereavement Service (www.kingstonbereavementservice.org.uk) 020 8547 1552
Macmillan Cancer Support (www.macmillan.org.uk) 0808 808 0000
Samaritans (www.samaritans.org) 116 123
West London Coroner (www.westlondoncoroner.org) General number 020 8753 6800
Death Notification Service inform banks of someone’s death (www.deathnotificationservice.co.uk)
Support is also available for children and young people, including:
Child Bereavement UK (www.childbereavementuk.org/supporting-bereaved-children-and-young-people) 0800 028 8840
Please speak to a member of staff before or during your visit to the hospital if you require translation.
Please contact the Patient Experience Team on 020 8934 3850 if you need this information in a different format.
For information accessibility please visit Kingston Hospital AccessAble www.accessable.co.uk/kingston-hospital-nhs-foundation-trust
Visit the hospital website, ask a member of staff, or ring us for details.
Switchboard 020 8546 7711
‘Find Us’ page for maps, transport, registering a blue badge, disabled access
Information, advice and support for patients and relatives (PALS) 020 8934 3993
Please speak to a member of staff before or during your visit to the hospital if you require translation support to access Patient Information. Please ring the phone number on your appointment letter, if you have one.
Request More Information
Please contact the Patient Experience Team on 020 893 3850 if you need this information in a different format.
For detailed information on accessibility at Kingston Hospital visit Kingston Hospital AccessAble (https://www.accessable.co.uk/kingston-hospital-nhs-foundation-trust).
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