The Hospital Bereavement Service will provide you with as much guidance as you need during the early days of a hospital bereavement. The service is available between 9am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday on 01935 384746 or 07990 671855.
Specialist advice and information is also available for parents who lose a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death, please contact the Hospital Bereavement Service on the above numbers for guidance.
What to do first
Please telephone the Hospital Bereavement Service on 01935 384746 or 07990671855 the next working day to arrange the collection of the Medical Certificate of Death.
When you visit the hospital you will also be given any property and valuables of the deceased, together with a release form for the undertaker.
The Bereavement Office is situated on Level 3 near the main entrance to the hospital.
Relatives and friends may wish to visit the deceased at the hospital to pay their last respects. This will be arranged as soon as possible for you. Please ask the ward staff to make arrangements or telephone the mortuary on 01935 384 332 to make an appointment before you visit. The phone line is open during standard weekday working hours and viewings are arranged Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Hospital Chaplains are available to offer support and can be contacted 24 hours a day via the hospital switchboard on 01935 475122. The Hospital Chapel is on Level 4 and is open from early morning until the evening for personal reflection and prayer. Visitors from all religions and none are welcome to pray in the Chapel and may use the sacred texts, prayer mats and other resources kept in the Chapel. The Hospital Chaplains will put you in touch with ministers of other faiths if you require.
Book of Remembrance: The Hospital Book of Remembrance is in the Chapel and friends and relatives may wish to have an inscription inserted in the book in memory of their loved one. If you wish to remember somebody in this way please contact the Hospital Chaplain or the Hospital Bereavement Service.
How a death is registered
A death must be registered at the Registrar of Births and Deaths office within five working days. In Somerset details can be registered at any Registrar’s office in the county. Most deaths are registered at the local office covering the area where the death has occurred and a list of the Registrar Offices is available at the Somerset County Council web site at www.somerset.gov.uk
It is important that you telephone the Registrar’s office to arrange an appointment before you attend to ensure that they are expecting you. If it is more convenient you can also register outside the county and the Registrar will give you details if you require.
To register the death you will need the following information:
- The Medical Certificate of Death from the hospital
- The deceased person’s full name, home address and occupation
- If the person was married the full name of their spouse.
- The date and place of birth of the deceased.
The Registrar will give you a green form that authorises the burial or cremation and this should be given to the undertaker. The Registrar will also give you a registration of death form which is for pension purposes.
Certified copies of the Death Certificate which you may need for the bank and insurance companies are also available from the Registrar for which there is small charge.
Registrar of Births and Deaths Offices in Somerset as follows:
South Somerset Registrar’s Office
King George Street
Outstations at Wincanton and Chard
Taunton Registrar’s Office
The Old Municipal Buildings
Mendip Registration Office
19b Commercial Road
Sedgemoor Registrar’s Office
West Somerset Registrar’s Office
2 Long Street
The Coroner is an independent judicial officer who enquires into deaths which are of a sudden or of an unknown cause.
Sometimes it may be necessary for hospital doctors to refer a hospital death to the Coroner; typically if the death occurred within 24 hours of admission or surgery or if the cause of death is unknown or was related to an industrial disease. Doctors caring for your loved one will contact the Coroner’s Office for guidance in these cases.
After this discussion, the Coroner may authorise a Medical Certificate of Death to be issued by the hospital doctor or the Coroner may order a post mortem to establish the precise cause of death. The Hospital Bereavement Service or hospital doctors will advise you if a Coroner’s post mortem examination is necessary and will give any guidance you require. The post mortem will be undertaken promptly and you can begin to make funeral arrangements while waiting for it to take place.
The hospital is licensed by the Human Tissue Authority to undertake post mortem examinations and adheres to the conditions of the Human Tissue Act (2004). All post mortem examinations are undertaken by consultant pathologists trained to Royal College of Pathology standards.
The Coroner’s office will advise you about how to register the death after the post mortem and obtain the paperwork that you will need for the undertakers. The Coroner and Coroner’s Officer can be contacted on the following telephone numbers: 01935 402022 or 01823 359271.
Arranging the funeral
Unless there are religious or cultural reasons for holding a funeral quickly there is no need to hurry. You can take all the time you need to make sure the funeral is arranged in a way that will be special to you.
Check if any Will has been made by the deceased as soon as possible as it may include special requests about the funeral arrangements.
Costs of funerals do vary and you may wish to contact several funeral directors in order to compare prices before you make a decision. Also check whether the deceased has contributed to schemes to pay for the funeral with a specific undertaker or if there are insurance policies in place.
Undertakers are very experienced and will provide you with suggestions, practical support and guidance concerning the funeral arrangements if you require. A list of local undertakers is available from the Hospital Bereavement Service.
If you have trouble paying for the funeral you may be entitled to receive a payment from the Department for Work and Pensions Social Fund. To qualify you or your partner must be receiving an eligible benefit.
Contact the Hospital Bereavement Service or your local Job Centre Plus office to check eligibility and ask for leaflet DWP 1027 – ‘What to do after death in England and Wales’.
The assets of the deceased have to be administered by collecting in any money due, and dealing with any property in accordance with the Will. In addition organisations such as pension providers and the Inland Revenue will have to be informed. This can be attended to after the funeral and normally there is no need to make this a priority in the first few days after death.
If there is a Will then this will confirm who has been appointed as executors to administer the estate. The executors may have to apply to the Court for Probate to distribute the estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes. Probate confirms who has authority to administer the deceased estate and many financial organisations normally expect to see Probate before they release significant funds to the beneficiaries of a Will.
The Probate Office Help Line on 0845 302 0900 will assist you or you may wish to visit the Probate Service website from the link on the right. Regional Probate offices are located at Bristol 0117 927 3915 and Winchester 01962 897029.
If there is no Will or the executors do not wish to act then it is possible to administer and distribute the estate. Guidance is available from the Probate Office Help Line telephone number or their web site. You will be given details on how to apply for Letters of Administration which will confirm who has authority to act for the deceased even though there was no Will.
Applying for Probate or Letters of Administration can be complicated and time consuming and you may simply feel too upset to deal with all the paperwork. If this is the case then it may be advisable to seek professional advice from a solicitor or accountant who will administer the estate for you.
It is not always necessary to obtain a grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. Some organisations, including many insurance companies, banks and building societies, will release funds to the executors or next of kin without Probate or Letters of Administration. This generally happens if the estate and account balances are relatively small and the estate is not complex or contentious.
The government leaflet DWP 1027– ‘What to do after death in England and Wales’ provides clear guidance about Probate and Letters of Administration and copies of the leaflet are available from the Hospital Bereavement Service or your local Job Centre Plus office.