What is a Coroner referral?

A Coroner referral is when a doctor refers a death to the Coroner to investigate. This is usually because the deceased died unexpectedly or the cause of death is unknown, unclear or suspicious.

Who can use Coroner referrals?

  • General practitioners (GPs)
  • Hospice doctors

Refer a death to the Coroner

When should a death be referred to the Coroner?

Some circumstances mean a death needs to be referred to the Coroner, including:

  • unexpected, unexplained or sudden death of a patient
  • when no doctor has treated the deceased during his or her last illness
  • when the doctor looking after the patient has not seen them within 14 days - before or after the death
  • death after a recent fall
  • when the death might be due to an industrial injury or disease, such as asbestos-related diseases
  • safeguarding - if the deceased was under investigation to protect their rights to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect
  • when the deceased was subject to a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguarding Order (DoLS)
  • if the registered GP of the deceased is on annual leave or has left the surgery
  • if the family of the deceased have concerns about the cause of death or how the deceased died.

See General Register Office's full list of when deaths should be referred to the Coroner - PDF, 99KB.

What is the process for a Coroner referral?

If you are unable to issue a death certificate because the reason for the cause of death is unknown or unexpected:

  • you refer the death to the Coroner. By doing this online, you can refer the death at any time of day and you won't have to wait on the telephone.
  • we send you an email copy of your referral containing a unique reference number. Please say this reference number and the deceased’s name when you speak to us about your referral.
  • we telephone the deceased's family within 24 hours to let them know we've received the referral and what will happen next. We will keep the family updated throughout.
  • we enter the details of the referral onto our system and allocate the referral to a Coroner's officer.
  • we discuss the circumstances of the death with the Coroner and the family of the deceased.
  • the Coroner decides the appropriate course of action depending on the information received.

We do not provide advice or help with cremation documents after the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) has been issued. Find guidance and forms on cremation.

What happens after a death is reported to the Coroner?

When a death is reported to the Coroner’s office, the Coroner will consider the information presented and either:

  • give a doctor permission to issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD), or
  • order a post mortem.

How long will it take?

We appreciate the process may take some time to complete especially at a very emotional time for the families involved.

We will do our best to complete our investigations so it doesn’t delay the funeral arrangements.