The biggest change to the death certification process in more than 50 years is about to take place, affecting all deaths in England and Wales. The scheduled implementation date is 9 September 2024.  

In line with previous requirements, medical certification (enabling a death to be registered) will involve either a medical practitioner or a coroner. The certificate provides a permanent legal record of the fact of death. It enables the family to arrange disposal of the body, and to settle the deceased’s estate. Medical examiners will be scrutinising almost all deaths in acute trusts and a growing proportion of deaths in all other healthcare settings (including the community).

Alongside this change, a new medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD) is introduced. This form must be completed for all deaths (separate forms exist for when deaths occur after or before 28 days of life). The new information to be captured by the MCCD is:

  • details of the medical examiner who scrutinised the cause of death,
  • ethnicity, as self-declared by the patient on the medical record, and
  • information about any medical devices and implants.

These details are to be transferred to the certificate for burial or cremation. The certificate is completed by the registrar and notifies relevant authorities of the fact of death.

There will no longer be a requirement for registrars to refer deaths to coroners; this will take place by the medical examiner or attending practitioner.

Why are these changes happening?

The new legislation has been introduced to:

  • improve efficiency in the death certification system, and
  • provide mortality data both locally and nationally.

How are you affected by these changes?

You cannot register a death until the medical examiner or coroner notifies the registrar of the cause of death. From this point, you must register the death within five days (eight days in Scotland). This timeframe includes weekends and bank holidays.

Once the death is registered, you receive a ‘certificate for a burial’ (for your funeral director) or an application for cremation (for the crematorium). Then your loved one’s funeral can take place.

Registering a death can be confusing and emotional. The Austin’s team is here to help you with offices across Herts. We also provide helpful details about the actions and information required when registering a death.

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