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Bereavement services

Expected deaths

Unexpected deaths

The Coroner

Registering a death


Public Health funerals

Bereavement is a difficult process to go through and we can provide you with guidance on what to do when someone dies.

Expected deaths

If the death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff will contact the person named by the deceased as next of kin. This is usually a relative, though it does not have to be.

The hospital will offer guidance and take care of most of the legal matters such as certifying the death. The body will be kept in the hospital mortuary until the executor arranges for it to be taken away.

Outside of the hospital, if the death was expected, you should contact the doctor who attended the deceased during their final illness.

Unexpected deaths

If you discover a body or the death is sudden or unexpected, you should contact the following people:

  • The deceased's nearest relative.
  • The family doctor (if known) or relevant medical personnel (Ambulance service etc).
  • A minister of the deceased's religion (if any).

If the remains are those of a stranger, or you did not know the deceased well, please contact the police, who will try and find the people listed above.

If there is any reason to think that the death was not due to natural causes, do not touch or remove anything in the room.

The coroner

Following a death, a doctor will try to establish the cause of death non-invasively. A doctor must ask permission of the family to carry out post-mortem examinations.

If the doctor cannot establish the cause of death, or if the death was suspicious, they can contact the coroner. The coroner does not need the family's permission to conduct post-mortem examinations.

If your relative is referred to the coroner, you will be informed.

pdf icon in depth information [146kb]

Registering a death

The doctor or coroner will issue a medical certificate showing the cause of death. Once this has been received, you must register the death.

If the deceased has been sent to the coroner, the death cannot be registered and a funeral cannot take place without their authorisation.


Once the death has been registered, a funeral can take place. After a service, the remains can be buried or cremated.

Public Health funerals

In some cases, when a person passes away there is no-one available to make funeral arrangements. This usually happens when someone dies with no known blood relatives, or has relatives that do not want to or are not able to be involved.

In situations like these, when no suitable arrangements have been made, then the council (or in some circumstances the local hospital) has a responsibility to ensure that the deceased receives a proper and dignified burial or cremation.

Once the death has been reported to the council (usually by the coroner), every attempt is made to give the most appropriate funeral. The deceased's belongings are retrieved from whoever has them and their home is searched for documentation such as wills, information relating to the location of any relatives, and any indication of religious beliefs or funeral preferences.

More detail is provided in our pdf icon information pack [171kb].

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