Obtaining a Death Certificate

The steps in the process of obtaining a death certificate are as follows:

  1. GP Direct will liaise with the local Medical Examiner’s office to gain authorisation to write a medical certificate for cause of death (MCCD). This step can take some hours.
  2. Once authorised, a Doctor at GP Direct will write out the MCCD & this will be emailed directly to the local Registrar Office.
  3. Relatives of the deceased patient will be contacted directly by the Registrar Office when they have issued the formal death certificate, to collect it from their office.

They will not need to attend the surgery.

Medical Examiner Process

Losing a loved one is never easy and it can be difficult and confusing having to think about what you need to do to register the death when you are grieving.

To help you understand the process below is a simple guide of what happens next and what you will need to do.

Who are medical examiners and why do they call?

1) Phone call from the medical examiner’s office

As soon as possible after the death (on average within 24 hours) the next of kin will receive a phone call from the medical examiner’s service.

This service provides an independent review of the cause of death and gives the next of kin time to ask questions.

(Medical examiners are senior medical doctors who provide independent scrutiny of the causes of death. They are trained in the legal and clinical elements of death certification processes. The medical examiner’s service was rolled out nationally on 1 April 2023 to all community and GP services. You can find out more here).

The medical examiner’s office will be able to:

  • confirm your loved one’s cause of death
  • discuss the care they received
  • answer your questions, and concerns
  • explain the wording on the death certificate agreed by the doctor and medical examiner.

If the cause of death is unknown, they will also be able to talk you through the referral process to the coroner (if required).

Following your call with the medical examiner’s office the medical certificate of cause of death will then be electronically sent by the GP/doctor straight to the registrar in the borough the death was recorded. You will then be able to book an appointment to register the death.

You do not need to visit the GP surgery to collect the medical certificate of cause of death.

2) Registering the death

A death must be registered within five days.

To register you will need to book an appointment with the registrar in the borough that the death occurred in. The registrar will need the medical certificate of cause of death to do this.

Please use the links below to register in the borough you need;

Brent: Deaths and funeral arrangements | Brent Council
Harrow: Register a death – Register a death – Harrow Council
Ealing: Register a death | Register a death | Ealing Council
Hillingdon: Register a death – Hillingdon Council

3) Arranging a funeral

A funeral can usually only take place after the death is registered.

There are many things to think about and decide when arranging a funeral. The person may have left plans for the funeral they want, or you may need to arrange the funeral yourself. It can be a good idea to ask family and friends for help. Or you may want to pay for the services of a funeral director, who can take you through the whole process step-by-step.

Whilst planning a funeral, it can be useful to consider:

waiting until you have the medical certificate of death certificate and (green certificate from the registrar for burial or cremation) before finalising any arrangements making any arrangements
if the person has left instructions in their will or a letter about their wishes
letting people know about the death and funeral details by organising an obituary in a newspaper or other.

More information on arranging funerals on GOV.UK

Frequantly asked questions

The medical examiner’s office wants to check if you have any concerns about the death before the death certificate is issued. If you miss a call from them they will keep trying to contact you.

The medical examiner’s office will contact the next of kin registered with the deceased’s GP/doctor.

The medical examiner’s office will call, if you decide that you don’t need to talk to them for very long that is fine. The service is designed to support the next of kin.

Yes, interpreting services will be available to support bereaved relatives who need them.

Yes, you can contact the office for your borough using the following details

Borough Medical examiner service base Medical examiner office email 
Hillingdon Hillingdon Hospital  Thh.me-community@nhs.net  
Harrow, Brent, Ealing Northwick Park Hospital lnwh.tr-medicalexaminer@nhs.net 
Kensington and Chelsea  Hounslow West Middlesex Hospital chelwest.bereavementteam.wmuh@nhs.net 
Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster Imperial  Imperial.medicalexaminer@nhs.net

The medical examiner’s office is sensitive to religious needs surrounding burial.  They will make sure they call next of kin as soon as possible within 24 hours of the death.

The certificate is issued by the GP after the Medical Examiner review and a discussion between them. In most cases this will be within a day of the death but in some cases may be longer. If the death needs to be referred to the coroner there will be a delay in issuing the death certificate. This will vary depending on what the coroner decides they need to do.

Coroners investigate all deaths where the cause is unknown, where there is reason to think the death may not be due to natural causes, or which need an inquiry for some other reason. The GP has a legal duty to report any death that meets the coroner’s referral criteria. The GP or medical examiner’s officer will tell you if the death of your loved one has to be referred.

The coroner will investigate each case in an appropriate way. It may be as simple as consulting with the doctor who last treated the person who has died, or a post mortem examination may be needed. 

In some cases, the coroner may open an inquest, which is a judicial inquiry into the death. Coroners have the power to have a body brought into the public mortuary and keep it there while they carry out investigations.

For further advice please visit the gov.uk website.