Key provisions

Under section 3 of the new Notification of Deaths Regulations 2019 registered medical practitioners have a duty to notify the relevant senior coroner regarding a death which they suspect occurred in the following circumstances:

  • Poisoning, deliberate or accidental
  • Exposure to toxic substance
  • Use of medicinal product, controlled drug or psychoactive substance
  • Violence, trauma or injury
  • Self-harm
  • Neglect, including self-neglect
  • Death due to medical treatment or procedure of a medical nature
  • Injury sustained through employment during lifetime

The duty to notify also arises where:

  • The medical practitioner suspects the person’s death was unnatural but does not fall in the above categories
  • The cause of death is unknown
  • The person died in custody or otherwise in state detention (this does not include DoLs (LPSs) unless the person additionally subject to custody)
  • There is no attending registered medical practitioner
  • The attending medical practitioner not available to sign the medical certificate cause of death within a reasonable time (five days)
  • The identity of the person is unknown, the death should also be reported to the police

Information to be provided to the senior coroner (section 4)

Where the death is clearly unnatural notification should be made to the senior coroner straight away. These can be made via email, web portal or other methods. Notification can be provided orally in exceptional circumstances and the medical practitioner must as soon as is practicable provide a written notification confirming the information.

The medical practitioner must provide the name of the next of kin and why it is deemed that the death should be notified providing a detailed explanation in narrative form with their GMC number. An investigation may not always be necessary and if not the coroner will issue a 100A form and refer the case back to the medical practitioner who can issue a medical certificate of cause of death.

Up until now there was no statutory duty on doctors to report particular deaths to the coroner. These regulations impose a new legal duty on doctors to report deaths to the coroner in certain defined circumstances. These regulations provide clarification for doctors as to what their statutory duties actually are.