What should I do when someone dies at home?

When someone dies it can be distressing and difficult to think about practical things. This leaflet is to help guide you.

If your friend or relative dies at home, a healthcare professional will need to confirm that they have died. This is often called verification of death. This will usually be a doctor but may also be your district nurse or a palliative care clinical nurse specialist.

If the death has occurred during the opening hours of the patient’s GP practice, please call the surgery, and ask for a GP to visit the home to confirm the death. Outside of these hours, you should call NHS 111 and ask for a suitable healthcare professional to visit the home and confirm the death.

Once the death is confirmed a verification of death form will be completed, and this will enable the funeral director to collect the person who has died.

Receiving a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death (MCCD)

The MCCD can only be issued by a doctor who has seen the person who has died in the previous 28 days. Please call the GP practice within one working day of the death so they can write the MCCD.

They will email the MCCD by secure email to the registrar. If the GP has not seen the person who has died within the previous 28 days, then the GP will liaise with the coroner.

Registering a death

Once the death of your friend or relative has been confirmed by a healthcare professional, the death should usually be registered within five days. To register the death, visit Camden Council's website to make an appointment. If you do not have internet access, please call 020 7974 4444. After the appointment the registrar will issue the death certificate.

What is the difference between the certificates?

The verification of death certificate will allow the funeral director to transfer the deceased from your home and provide appropriate care.

The medical certificate of cause of death allows you or the patient’s relatives to register the death with the registrar of births, deaths, and marriages. The death certificate issued by the registrar will facilitate dealing with all the practical and financial affairs.

Other practical matters

If you would like to keep the deceased in the house for a length of time keep the room cool by turning off any central heating in that part of the house. Any equipment that the patient was using should remain in place until advised by a healthcare professional.

If a syringe pump has been used, this should stay in place until it is collected by the palliative care team or district nurse. The battery can be removed to prevent the unit alarm from sounding. The healthcare professional who attends the home to confirm the death can disconnect the syringe driver.

Any unused medications should be taken to any chemist where they will dispose of them safely. If you have equipment in your house the district nurse or palliative care team will arrange collection.