This leaflet explains what to do when someone dies at home, who to inform, how to register the death and the follow up support available from Trinity.

Informing the doctor

When someone who is expected to die soon dies at home, the first step is to inform a doctor in order for them to be able to verify the death. If the death occurs within normal surgery hours, then simply phone your own family doctor, who will come and visit and explain the process for collecting the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death from the surgery when it is completed.

If the death occurs outside normal surgery hours, then you should call 111. You will speak initially to a call handler, and it is important at this point to inform them that the death was expected, otherwise they will assume that it has been an unexpected death and will call the emergency services.

Once you have spoken to the call handler, you will be called back by a clinician, who will confirm the details and make arrangements for
a doctor to visit you at home. There may be a long delay before the doctor comes to confirm death, sometimes this may be hours. As the death is expected, the visit is to confirm what has happened and is not treated as an emergency.

If it is an out-of-hours doctor who does not know the person who has died, then they will not be able to issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, but they will still visit your home in order to confirm the death. They will inform your own doctor’s surgery and you will then need to call the surgery the next working day to find out when the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death can be collected. If the death happens in the middle of the night and your GP is open the next day, you may decide to wait until the next day to speak to your own GP rather than calling 111.

Please remember that at this difficult and upsetting time, there is no rush to do anything and you may want to call a friend or relative to
come and be with you. You may want to spend some time with the person who has died. It is very natural for there to be a sense of loss, but a sense of relief is also sometimes a normal reaction, particularly if they have been very unwell for a long time.

Contacting the funeral director

Once the doctor has visited and confirmed death, you can then phone the funeral director of your choice. You may have thought about and decided already which firm you would like to use but if not, you can find local funeral directors listed online or Trinity can provide a list.

If there was a syringe pump in place when the death occurred, the community nurse will need to come and remove it from your relative after the doctor has visited, but before the funeral director comes. The number to call will be in the community notes which were kept at the house. Alternatively, the doctor may contact the community team for you.

Once you have called the funeral director, they will visit and will arrange to move your relative to their chapel of rest. Funeral directors will visit at any time by arrangement, but will usually charge more for visits made out of normal office hours.

The funeral director will be able to give you more support and information about the process of registering the death, and information about what to do next.

Registering the death

By law you must register the death within five working days, unless the coroner is involved (this is unlikely in the case of an expected death but your GP will give you more information and support should this be the case). Once you have obtained the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, you can then register the death. To do this, you need to make an appointment with the registrar in the same district as the death occurred. You will usually be given an information booklet. The registrar’s telephone number is also given on the envelope which comes with the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death.

Registering the death is free, although it is recommended to pay for some copies of the formal death certificate if possible as all banks, pensions, investment and life insurance companies will request a copy from the registrar – a photocopy is not acceptable. The registration process will take around 40 minutes to complete.

Fast-track death registration

It may be important to you that burial occurs within 24 hours. If this is the case, death can be verified and certified by your GP during normal surgery hours, and an urgent appointment made with the registry office. Most registry offices will have spaces available.
If a death occurs outside of registry office hours, the doctor will need to be informed (see guidance above) and you will need to contact the on-call registrar via their out of hours contact number (available online) and they will explain what you need to do.

If there is uncertainty about registration of a death during an out of hours period, agencies such as local places of worship can be contacted for further support and information.

Bereavement follow up

In the days immediately after the death, you will be contacted by a member of the Royal Trinity Hospice team to see how you are and if you have any questions. If you feel you require help or support prior to this contact, please call us on 0207 787 1062. You will also receive a letter from Trinity’s Bereavement Service offering you or your family members ongoing support. Should you wish to contact them directly, please call on 0207 787 1090.

Medication and equipment

If you have medical equipment that needs to be returned, please contact the professional who organised the delivery and they will arrange for it to be collected.

If you have medications that need to be disposed of, please return them to your local community pharmacy.

Other practical advice

We have a welfare benefits advisor at Trinity who can be contacted for advice about financial matters arising from the death of your relative. Should you wish to contact them directly, please call on 0207 787 1049. There is information available from the Department of Work and Pensions which may help you in the days to come with other practical and financial arrangements. This is available at

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