Bereavement service

Our bereavement service offers one-to-one support for relatives and those close to patients who have died in the hospital. The service offers practical advice and support about what needs to be done during this difficult time.

We have also provided contact details for outside organisations who offer both practical and emotional support and guidance.

Location

Both hospitals have bereavement officers with offices close to the main reception at Harefield hospital and at the Sydney Street wing of Royal Brompton hospital.

When you suffer a bereavement

You should receive a bereavement information pack, either on the ward where your loved one died or from the bereavement officer when you come in to collect the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death.

Bereavement officer

The bereavement officer is a member of our staff who can offer help to bereaved families and friends. The bereavement officer is notified of all deaths in the hospital and will meet you as soon as possible to discuss arrangements and to advise on the practical steps that need to be taken.

When returning to the hospital to see the patient support coordinator you need to make an appointment. This will allow us to deal with practical arrangements before we see you and make sure we are available to speak to you.

The bereavement officer at each hospital can be contacted by telephone or email.

Royal Brompton Hospital

Telephone: 020 7349 7715 (you can also contact the switchboard on 020 7352 8121 and ask for 'bleep 7701' to leave a pager message for the coordinator)

Email: bereavement@rbht.nhs.uk

Address: Sydney Street, London, SW3 6NP

Harefield Hospital

Telephone: 01895 828 638 (you can also contact the switchboard on 01895 823 737 and ask for 'bleep 6719' to leave a pager message for the coordinator)

If the bereavement officer is not available to answer your call please leave a brief message with your contact details and he or she will get back to you as soon as possible.

When you arrive at the hospital for your appointment please ask the receptionist to contact the bereavement officer.

Informing your GP

After someone dies in hospital the patient support coordinator or a member of the medical team will try to notify his or her GP within 48 hours.

Chapel of rest

You are welcome to spend a little time with your loved one in our chapel of rest.

If you wish to do this please contact the ward or bereavement officer to arrange a time. It is essential that you advise us of this in advance as special arrangements will need to be made.

You will also be able to spend time with your loved one in the chapel of rest at the funeral director's office.

The coroner and coroners' post-mortems

Sometimes it may be necessary for the doctor to refer a death to the coroner. For example, if the death occurred within 24 to 48 hours of admission or surgery if the cause of death is unknown or the death is related to an industrial disease.

The coroner is a legally qualified official who is responsible for investigating deaths that might not be from natural causes by holding an inquest and possibly a post-mortem examination.

If this is the situation, one of the doctors caring for your loved one will contact the coroner’s office to discuss the case. On the basis of this discussion, the coroner may allow for a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death to be issued or he or she may order a coroner’s post-mortem.  This is usually, but not always, held at the hospital where your loved one died.

If a coroner’s post-mortem is ordered, the necessary arrangements will be made by the bereavement officer and medical team. The coroner’s post-mortem is a legal requirement and cannot be refused.

However, we may ask your consent to retain samples from the post-mortem to assist us in explaining your loved one’s last illness. You, as registered next of kin, will need to return to the hospital to complete the paperwork for this. If you live a long way away we will ask your GP to help you and us with this.

Following a coroner’s post-mortem, all required paperwork is provided by the coroner’s office and not the hospital. 

Coroner's inquest

An inquest is a formal public inquiry, but most cases referred to the coroner do not involve an inquest.

If there is to be an inquest the coroner will open it pending the results of the post-mortem and other tests and will provide the burial order or a Certificate for Cremation to the funeral director.

In these circumstances you will not have to register the death – this will be done by the coroner.

The coroner will issue you with an interim certificate should you need to inform the bank, building society or insurance companies of your loved one's death.

Hospital post-mortem

In some cases, the medical team caring for your loved one may ask your permission to conduct a post-mortem to better understand the nature of the illness and the effects of treatment and surgery. You have the right to refuse such a request or specify which aspects of the post-mortem you are prepared to allow and which you wish to refuse.

Talking to a doctor may help you to decide whether you wish to give permission.

A hospital post-mortem should not delay the issue of a medical cause of death certificate and registration of the death. You can begin to make funeral arrangements while waiting for the post-mortem to take place.

You or an agreed family representative must return to the hospital to complete the relevant paperwork unless you live far away, in which case we may ask your GP to help with this. 

The hospital will supply you with the relevant forms, but you can also open the post-mortem consent form at the foot of this page.

Registering a death

Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death

You will need to collect a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death from the bereavement officer who will arrange to have this ready for when you attend your appointment. You will need this certificate in order to register the death.

Registration

A death must be registered in the district in which it occurred.

All deaths at Royal Brompton Hospital must be registered at Kensington and Chelsea Register Office.

All deaths at Harefield Hospital must be registered at Hillingdon Register Office.

When to register the death

Legally the death must be registered within five working days. Further information can be obtained from the reception staff at Chelsea or Uxbridge registrar’s offices.

Who is able to register a death

There are a number of people who are able to register the death. In the first instance it would usually be the closest relative but people who were present at the time of death are also able to register. 

Close relatives should be aware that the name of the person nominated by them to register the death will appear on the official death certificate.

An executor is not automatically entitled to register a death. Further information on persons able to register a death is available from the bereavement officer or the local Registrar’s Office.

What documents will I need?

When you go to the registrar’s office you must take the Medical Cause of Death Certificate issued by the hospital.

Please also take:

  • the NHS medical card belonging to the deceased person (if available)

  • any pension book, certificate or document relating to any pensions or benefits that the deceased was receiving from public funds (if available).

It would also be useful if you have the deceased’s birth and (if applicable) marriage certificates. However, these documents are not essential, provided you are able to give the registrar the correct information.

What questions will I be asked?

The registrar will need to know the following:

  • the date and place of death
  • the last (usual) address
  • the full names and surname (and the maiden name where applicable)
  • the date and place of birth (town and county if born in the UK and the country if  born abroad)
  • occupation of the deceased and the name and occupation of their spouse and of previous spouses (if applicable)
  • whether the person was married, the date of birth of the surviving widow or widower.

What will the registrar give you?

The registrar will give you:

  • the official death certificate (explained below)

  • Certificate for Burial or Cremation (known as the green form) - this gives permission for the body to be buried, or for an application for cremation to be made, this should be given to the funeral director as soon as possible

  • Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8) - this is for social security purposes only - please follow the instructions on the certificate.

The death certificate

The death certificate given to you by the registrar is the official death certificate. It is different from the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death given to you by the hospital. It is a certified copy of the entry in the death register.

The registrar will issue certified copies of the death certificate entry on payment of a fee of £3.50.

You will need copies of the official death certificate for dealing with matters including: 

  • bank accounts

  • pension claims

  • insurance policies

  • wills

  • savings certificates

  • premium bonds.

Several copies of the death certificate should be purchased at the time of registration as photocopies are not accepted for any of the purposes described above.

Please note that if you require further copies of the death certificate at a later date the fee is higher.

Repatriation

If the deceased is to be taken overseas, the hospital will provide the relatives with a Free From Infection (FFI) Form.

This will be given to the funeral director who will apply to the coroner for an Out of England Form. Please note, this form is also required if the deceased is being returned to Scotland.

You must inform the bereavement officer so the relevant paperwork can be organised. Your nominated funeral director will be able to advise on repatriation.

Arranging a funeral

Once you have appointed a funeral director, they will advise you on arrangements and all costs and any financial aid that may be available. 

Costs may include:

  • notice in local newspapers
  • church and ministers' fees
  • flowers
  • a burial plot or crematorium fees.

Please ask staff at our Trust for help and advice. We also have chaplains who can offer support. Your GP should also be able to direct you towards help in this difficult period.

National organisations

If a child has died

  • Child Death Helpline - A helpline for all, including children, affected by the death of a child. It is run by parents who have experienced a loss themselves.
  • Child Bereavement Trust - Support, including an excellent video for children and teenagers who have suffered the loss of someone close to them.
  • Winston’s Wish - Help for grieving children and their families.

Other organisations


Useful documents

  • Bereavement (pdf, 357.6KB)
  • Funeral Choice - Providing help to understand funeral costs and to find a local funeral director (London and surrounding areas)
  • Consent form - retention of specimens from HM Coroners PM (pdf, 111KB) - Copy of the consent form used to obtain permission for the retention,  secondary use and disposal of organs and specimens removed during a post mortem examination ordered by a Coroner