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What should I do if a relative dies at home?

When a death which has been expected occurs at home or at a nursing home, the Doctor who has been treating the deceased should be contacted. The Doctor or a colleague will either attend to confirm that death has occurred, or will give permission for the deceased to be transferred to a Funeral Director's premises, if this is your wish. You can then contact the Funeral Director of your choice, who will attend to transfer the deceased to their premises. Please note that in this area, for any death outside of normal surgery hours, if the deceased’s own GP can’t attend and issue the certificate or if an up-to-date Statement of intent is not in place, the police must be informed.

What should I do if a relative dies in hospital?

If a relative who has been a hospital inpatient dies, the doctors who have been treating the deceased will usually be able to issue the Medical Certificate. Ask the ward staff or Doctor what you need to do to collect this Certificate, or ring us for advice and contact numbers.

The Doctor says he / she won't issue the medical certificate. Why is this?

The Doctor can only issue the Certificate if he/she knows the cause of death, and has been treating the deceased for this illness in the last 14 days. If this is not the case, or if there are other circumstances involved (such as a recent operation, procedure or a possible industrial disease), the Doctor will have to refer the death to the Coroner. If the death has occurred at home, the Coroner will arrange for the deceased to be taken into his custody, in order that the death can be investigated.

What does a coroner do?

It is the coroner's responsibility to ascertain the cause of death. The vast majority of deaths that are reported to the coroner are discovered to be from natural causes - only a small proportion require further investigation. The coroner will conduct a post mortem examination of the deceased to establish the cause of death. The coroner does not require permission to investigate a death within his/her jurisdiction, and cannot be prevented from doing so. The coroner has to investigate deaths from diseases which may have been caused by the deceased’s occupation or following a recent operation or procedure. Ensuring that public interest has been served.

Why do GP's charge for cremation forms?

A deceased person cannot be cremated until the cause of death has been ascertained and properly recorded.

The BMA website sets out the procedure:

"Before cremation can take place two certificates need to be signed, one by the GP and one by another doctor. Cremation Form 4 must be completed by the registered medical practitioner who attended the deceased during their last illness. Form 5 must be completed by a registered medical practitioner who is neither a partner nor a relative of the doctor who completed Form 4.

A fee will be charged for the completion of both Forms 4 and 5 as this does not form part of a doctor's NHS duties . These fees will be paid by the funeral director and passed onto the family. Doctors are also entitled to charge a mileage allowance, where appropriate".

Why do I have to register the death?

All deaths have to be registered, and the people closest to the deceased have a legal obligation to do this. Deaths in England and Wales or Northern Ireland should be registered within 5 days - if this is not going to be possible, you should inform the Registrar.

Which registrar's office should I go to?

In England and Wales, the death has to be registered at the registrar's office in the area where the death occurred. This is the case even if the death occurred a distance from home.

However there is a facility available to attend your local registrar's office to register a death that occurred in another area. This is called 'Registration by Declaration', and involves the two Registrars transferring documents by fax and post in order to register the death. Depending on the circumstances, this can delay the date of the funeral.

Please refer to ‘Registering a Death’ on the ‘What to Do’ page.”

What will the registrar give me?

Certificate for burial or cremation - This form is green, and should be given to your Funeral Director to allow the funeral to take place. NB: If the Coroner has investigated the death, and cremation is required, this will be replaced with a form which the Coroner will send direct to the Funeral Director.

BD8 - This form is the official notification of the death to the Department of Work and Pensions

Death Certificates - These are copies of the Register Entry, and are the Certificates required by Banks, Insurance Companies etc. to attend to the deceased's affairs. These are currently £3.50 per copy.

We have never been a religious family - do we have to have a vicar to take the ceremony?

No - there is no requirement to hold a religious funeral service, and there are a number of alternatives. Perhaps a relative or friend could take the service if they feel able to do so. Other Members of the congregation could speak or read verses or poems. There are other non-religious options available. Please ask for more information.

What are green funerals and woodland burials?

'Green funerals' is a term often used to describe funerals which are designed to be simple and environmentally friendly. Some people consider the use of a cardboard coffin to be more environmentally friendly than one composed of wood bi-products. Woodland burial sites are where trees or wild flowers are planted on graves instead of a headstone, eventually turning the site into woodland.

Can I get any assistance with funeral costs?

The DWP Social Fund awards financial assistance to individuals who meet a number of criteria. To qualify, you, and all other family Members who share your responsibility for the funeral, must be receiving at least one of several benefits, and have insufficient savings to pay for the funeral. The DWP Funeral Payment will provide a contribution towards a simple funeral. If you want to claim, click here

What if something goes wrong?

There are occasions when a client may feel dissatisfied with aspects of the services provided as part of the funeral. The National Association of Funeral Directors Code of Practice , with which all NAFD Funeral Directors are obliged to comply, provides a simple procedure to resolve problems between Funeral Directors and their clients. Copies of the Code of Practice are readily available from all NAFD Members.

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