Out of Hours Medical Service (General Practitioner)

Care provided after death

The Out of Hours Medical Service (OOH) in Northern Ireland provides medical care and advice at night and at the weekend. GPs working in the service provide sensitive and compassionate support for relatives when death occurs and in the immediate period afterwards. They may be contacted in a range of circumstances including when a patient dies at home or care home and when PSNI or emergency services contact them to attend the scene where someone has died suddenly.

The OOH doctor to whom a death has been reported will be responsible for some of the steps that allow legal registration of the death and a funeral to take place:

  • Verifying life extinct: (verification of death, pronouncing death, confirming death) is the first step and this will be formally recorded by the verifying doctor
  • Informing patients GP: the OOH doctor will inform the  GP of the death, who will then take the steps appropriate to the circumstances e.g. complete the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death
  • Reporting a death to the Coroner: The OOH doctor will determine if the circumstance of the death that has been reported to them requires that they contact the Coroner. A doctor has a duty to report any death to the Coroner if it resulted, directly or indirectly, from any cause other than natural illness or disease for which the patient had been seen and treated within 28 days of death.
  • Completing Cremation Certificate: for a cremation to take place the signature of the doctor on call who verified the death may be one of the 2 signatories required for cremation documentation

Works Alongside

  • Relatives (to be agreed)
  • Other members of the OOH Medical Service team
  • GPs, District Nurses, Nursing and Residential Home staff and other caring services involved with the patient
  • Ambulance service
  • Coroners Service/PSNI
  • Funeral Directors
  • Clinical governance colleagues supporting processes in relation to clinical audit,  case review and reporting death

The standard of bereavement care is enhanced when:

  • The OOH team has access to up to date information from GPs  in relation to terminally ill patients at home e.g. the  ‘out of hours handover’ form
  • The OOH team is informed about the death by healthcare staff/emergency services present or to whom the death was reported
  • Information about the death is passed on to  the GP
  • Follow up appointments with the OOH service are offered to relatives if required e.g. to clarify events around the time of death
  • Signatures on cremation certificates  are completed as soon as possible  after death
  • The Coroners Service/Medical Advisor is available for guidance when a death is reported
  • Services have training, supervision and support systems in place for OOH doctors

Standards and Guidelines