Our standard of service for funeral directors

We, the Essex Coroner’s Service, have a legal responsibility to investigate the cause of death of the deceased when reported to us.

We realise there are occasions when you, as funeral directors, are pushed by the bereaved to provide a date for the funeral. Your work relies heavily on the speed of the Coroner’s decision; we need to use our time effectively. By working together we can make the process faster, but we need your help in agreeing to contact us only when absolutely necessary and preferably by email.

By setting out our standards of service to you and the bereaved, you will have a clear indication of our timescales.

We can only achieve these time scales if released from day-to-day enquiries and requests for updates.

We are committed to continuous improvement and improved communications with the bereaved and professionals.

Standards of service

First, the GP, Care Home or Hospital Bereavement Team will advise the family that there is a need for Coroner intervention. They must contact us, the Coroner, as soon as possible.

We have been working with Essex Hospitals to improve the process of Coroner referrals. They are working to a standard of reporting a death requiring Coroner intervention within 24 hours.

The first 24 hours (or next working day)

Once advised of a death that may need further investigation, we will contact the next of kin (or the nominated point of contact), within one working day of the death being reported to us. We will explain why the death has been reported, the Coroner’s role and what actions are likely to follow.

One of our Coroner’s officers will give the next of kin (or nominated person) their name and contact details and become the main point of contact for any updates on the investigation.

We will take account, where possible, of views and expectations, including family and community preferences, traditions and religious requirements relating to mourning, post-mortem examinations and funerals.

At this time the family may decide to appoint a funeral director, however, we cannot give a date to make arrangements for the deceased until the investigation is complete.

The first 3 days – if a post mortem is not needed

If the Coroner decides no post mortem is needed, the Coroner’s Officer will contact the next of kin within 3 working days to advise that the deceased can be released. The Coroner needs this time to gather information and investigate the possible cause of death. We will also tell the GP or Hospital of the decision. The next of kin can then advise the Funeral Director that the deceased has been released by the Coroner and make arrangements to register the death.

At this stage we will not be responsible for contacting the funeral director, or sharing any information with you.

The first 3 to 7 days – if a post mortem is needed

If the Coroner decides a post mortem is needed, the Coroner’s Officer will contact the next of kin within 3 to 7 working days to advise them of the next steps. Wherever possible we will tell them when and where an examination will be performed, and ask them if a funeral director has been appointed and the contact details.

The results of the post mortem will be sent direct to us. We will then contact the next of kin with the outcome. We will also contact the funeral director to tell them where the deceased lies and that the next of kin have been informed. The funeral director can then contact the hospital mortuary to arrange to collect the deceased.

Sometimes, because of the complexity of the examination, the pathologist’s report may not be available for several weeks. In this case we will advise the next of kin. The next of kin can then contact us if they have concerns or need further updates.

We will not share post mortem information with the funeral director. The onus is on the next of kin to advise the funeral director of any delays.