On behalf of all of the staff involved in caring for your loved one whilst they were in hospital, we wish to express our sincere condolences to you at this extremely difficult time.
Bereavement Services staff offer advice and guidance on the practical steps you will need to take following a bereavement. The team consists of a small group of experienced individuals, who are committed to providing the highest standard of care and support to the family and friends of those who die in hospital. We are primarily based in the Bereavement Office at Royal Stoke University Hospital, however we also cover County Hospital in Stafford.
What do I need to do first?
You will need to contact the Bereavement Office using the details provided below, after 10:00am the working day following your bereavement.
A Bereavement Officer will need to ask you some questions about your loved one:
- We need to know about their employment history.
- Were they a smoker?
- Do you as a family feel that any aspect of the care in hospital may have contributed to the death?
- At this point we will also ask if you know whether your loved one is likely to be buried or cremated, and it would also be helpful if you can tell us which funeral director you will be using.
The reason we must ask these questions at the first point of contact, is so that we will be able to determine whether or not we need to report your loved one's death to the Coroner, and what paperwork you will require for the funeral.
Medical Certificate of Cause of Death
In order to formally register the death, you will need to provide the Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages with the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (medical certificate).
The Bereavement Office will contact the doctor involved in caring for your loved one, and ask them to complete the medical certificate. The medical certificate is not something that is immediately available to be collected following the death of a patient. It is something that the doctor usually has to discuss with a Consultant, before physically visiting the Bereavement Office to write out. Once this is done, all of the paperwork will need to be double-checked by a Bereavement Officer.
If we do not need to report the death to the Coroner, then we will contact you at the earliest convenience and provide you with the details that you will need, in order to make an appointment to register the death.
If the death needs to be referred to the Coroner
The Bereavement Services team may need to report the circumstances of your loved one's death to the Coroner for a number of reasons. The most common being:
- The cause of death is unknown
- The deceased did not recover from a general anaesthetic
- There was any complication during or after surgery
- The cause of death could be due to an industrial disease
- There are any unusual, disturbing or unnatural features surrounding the death
The above list is not intended to be exhaustive, and there are multiple other reasons why the Coroner may need to be informed of your loved one's death. If the Coroner does need to be informed of the death; the Bereavement Office will only be able to contact you to arrange collection of the medical certificate if the Coroner agrees to this. Please note that Bereavement Services staff will not be able to give a specific time frame on how long it will take for the Coroner to come to a decision.
If the doctor does not know why your loved one died, the Coroner may order a post mortem examination. In this instance, the Bereavement Office will notify you that there is the need for a post mortem. You will then be contacted by one of the Coroner's Officers at a later point, who will be able to explain the process in more depth.
Should you have any concerns surrounding the care of your loved one whilst they were in hospital; you can raise this with Bereavement Services staff in the first instance. However you can also contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS), who provide the opportunity for patients, relatives and carers to raise in confidence, any problems, concerns or comments they may have about the care or service they receive from staff in the hospital. PALS can be contacted on telephone number 01782 676450 or 01782 676455, Monday to Friday, 9:00am until 4:00pm.
Things to keep in mind
The medical certificate will not be available to collect straight away.
Please do not visit the Bereavement Office in person if you have not been notified that you can come in to collect the medical certificate. This would be a wasted journey and we wouldn't want you to go away empty handed. You need to telephone Bereavement Services and answer the short series of questions detailed under the "What do I need to do first" heading; then once all of the paperwork has been completed by a doctor, we will contact you. We would really appreciate your patience, as the process can sometimes take longer than you might be expecting. However if you would like an update on whereabouts the process is at, please feel free to contact Bereavement Services at any point.
A common misconception is that the hospitals' Bereavement Services team provide a counselling service. Staff can only signpost you to various external organisations who are able to help you deal with the emotional side of a bereavement.
Any belongings or personal assets that your loved one had in hospital do not get sent to the Bereavement Office. The ward staff will normally liaise with you directly, with regard to collecting any belongings left on the ward.
Royal Stoke University Hospital
The Bereavement Office at Royal Stoke is located on the ground floor of the Main Building. We are in a corridor slightly to the right as you enter the Main Building, just beyond the main reception desk.
Opening times: 9:00am until 4:00pm, Monday to Friday. We are closed on weekends and bank holidays.
Telephone: 01782 676323 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The phone lines are answered from 10:00am. We can be extremely busy at times, so please bear with us. If the line is engaged, you can send Bereavement Services an email and a member of staff will contact you as soon as possible.
The Bereavement Office at County Hospital is not open to the public. If your loved one has died at County Hospital, please telephone (after 11:00am): 01785 230532 or email email@example.com
We might not be available to speak to straight away, so please leave a message on the answer machine a member of staff will get back to you as soon as possible.
At County Hospital, collection of the medical certificate works on an appointment basis. We will arrange a suitable date and time for you to attend the Main Reception desk once the medical certificate is ready to be collected.