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What to do when someone dies

Registering a death

If your loved one dies in hospital, the hospital's Bereavement Services team will help you through the process and advise you what needs to be done.

During the coronavirus crisis, deaths which happen at home or elsewhere in the community should be reported to the police or other emergency services, such as 999 or NHS 111. A Pandemic Multi-agency Response Team (PMART) has been introduced as part of London's overall response to the pandemic and to respond in particular to COVID-19 deaths not in a hospital. The aim of PMART is to enable key frontline services to focus on emergency cases. It will provide a response to deaths in the community, maintaining dignity for the deceased.

Where a death was expected and the deceased had been under medical care, this should continue to be reported to the person's GP in the usual way.

The registrar for the district in which the death occurred will arrange to register the death by telephone once the medical certificate of cause of death from the GP, hospital doctor or PMART hub doctor is received. The green form for burial or cremation will then be sent to your funeral director, or chosen cemetery or crematorium, so that the funeral arrangements can be made.

Public access to cemeteries and crematoria

In line with government advice about social distancing and to protect staff, funeral directors, mourners and other vulnerable groups, we have closed our cemeteries until further notice except for funerals.

Funeral services

The death of a loved one can be a challenging and distressing time for family and friends. In the event of a sudden and unexpected loss due to COVID-19, the impact of the loss can be even greater. Sadly, some families may not have had the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones before they died. Religious practices and traditions which normally occur during and after someone has died may also be affected.

We understand that some families might wish to delay the arrangement of the funeral for their loved one until the pandemic is over. Sadly, it is likely that the restrictions will need to continue for some time yet and so we urge families to make the funeral arrangements as soon as possible.

We are working to ensure that processes remain as dignified, respectful and supportive as they can be.

During the pandemic funerals may be attended by immediate family only and a maximum of ten people (parents, siblings, children), with social distancing observed (remain two metres apart from anyone not living in their household). Mourners who are themselves unwell with COVID-19 symptoms or self-isolating must not attend, and those who are 'at risk' are strongly advised not to. Transport to and from the funeral should only be shared by those living in the same household.

Due the risk of the spread of infection, mourners will not be able to backfill graves themselves at this time. For the duration of the pandemic it will sadly not be possible to hold a chapel service, but a short graveside service is permitted.

We understand that mourners that can't attend might want to take part remotely in burials which might include videoing or livestreaming the funeral service. Please let the Bereavement Team know in advance if you would like to do this on 020 8379 3767.

It may also be helpful for families to plan memorial services to commemorate their loved ones that could be held in the future, which could be many months after a person has been buried.

We are working hard with faith leaders, representatives of the funeral sector and others to offer support and ensure, wherever possible, family wishes will be acknowledged and respected. We are currently able to ensure faith burials are handled as quickly as usual. This might change in the future with an increasing number of deaths.

Practices around close contact with the body of an individual who has died from, or with symptoms of COVID-19, such as washing, preparing and dressing the deceased, are not advised unless appropriate personal protective equipment is used and the person has been trained in its proper use. Your funeral director will advise you.

Finding a funeral director

You can find an industry-inspected local funeral director by visiting The National Association of Funeral Directors or The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.

Bereavement support

We understand that losing a loved one can feel overwhelming, especially if the death was sudden and unexpected. For a step-by-step guide of what to do when someone dies, visit GOV.UK.

There are a number of organisations who can support you and your family during this distressing time:

  • Cruse Bereavement Care has online resources on how bereavement and grief may be affected by COVID-19, or call their free helpline on 0808 808 1677
  • The Compassionate Friends offer support to families after the death of a child. You can also call them on 0345 123 2304.