Bereavement Centre

The death of someone you love can be overwhelming, and you may find it difficult to know what to do next.

There is a Bereavement Centre at both Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals and our caring and compassionate staff can help you to understand the procedures after a death in hospital. We will help to make the process as simple as possible. You are welcome to call us or pop in during our opening hours.

We will do everything we can to support the needs of different religions, cultures and beliefs and help to expedite burials where possible.

We can put you in touch with our Spiritual care team if you need someone to talk to.

When someone dies in hospital

The medical team is responsible for completing a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD). This will take place after the death has been reviewed by the independent Medical Examiner. 

In some circumstances, a death may need to also be referred to the Coroner for further investigation. 

The Bereavement Centre will be notified of the death and your loved one will be taken to the hospital mortuary.

Please contact the Bereavement Centre as soon as you are able to and give them contact details of who will be responsible for registering the death and arranging the funeral. We will talk you through all the necessary steps and be able to answer any questions that you may have.

Staff in the Bereavement Centre will contact your loved one’s GP to let them know about the death.

Medical Examiners are independent senior medical doctors who come from a variety of medical specialities. They will not have been involved in the care of, or decision making related to the person who died. They are supported by a team of independent Medical Examiner Officers. Both Medical Examiner and Medical Examiner Officers have undertaken specialist training for this role from the Royal College of Pathology.   

All deaths in England and Wales will be reviewed by a Medical Examiner, if not by a Coroner. They do this by reviewing the patient’s medical records and also discussing with the doctors who looked after them. Medical Examiners also review the quality of care and make sure that it was satisfactory. Where there are concerns about the quality of care, or the death needs investigating further, the Medical Examiner Office will refer the case to an appropriate person to undertake this work, such as a Coroner.

Someone from the Medical Examiner Office will contact you to discuss the Medical Examiner’s review, explain what is written on the MCCD and why. They will check if you have any questions or concerns about the care the person received before their death. They can explain what medical language means, and make it easier to understand what happened. 

If the death is to be referred to the Coroner, they will explain why this is necessary and help you understand what happens next.

Once a case has been referred to the Coroner, their office becomes responsible for all decisions relating to the person who has died.

A Coroner is a judicial role responsible for investigating deaths that may be unnatural, violent or where the cause of death is simply not known. They will also investigate deaths that occur in specific circumstances, such as the person being detained in a prison or mental health hospital.

You can read more about the role of the Coroner.

The Coroner is supported in their role by a team of Coroner's Officers based at the local Coroner's Office. The office is not manned at weekends or bank holidays so cases will not be reviewed by their office until at least the next working day.


A Coroner may sometimes decide that a post-mortem is necessary to help find out the cause of death, for example where a doctor has been unable to complete an MCCD. A post-mortem is carried out by a Pathologist, a doctor who specialises in examining body organs, tissues and fluids to make a medical diagnosis.

The Coroner does not need your consent for a post-mortem, but they will explain why they feel one is necessary and discuss potential alternatives where applicable.

The post-mortem will be carried out as soon as possible to avoid delays to any funeral arrangements. The Coroner’s Office will let you know of timescales and if there are any delays. The Coroner’s Office will be able to discuss the findings of the post-mortem once the Pathologist’s report is available and provide you with a copy if you wish.

Interim death certificate

Whilst you will not be able to register the death whilst you wait for the results of the post-mortem, the Coroner will provide you with interim death certificates to allow you to deal with things like arranging the funeral, closing bank accounts and applying for probate. Some financial organisations, for example life insurance, may also require further information in writing from the Coroner, in addition to the interim death certificate. The Coroner will authorise the person to be released from the hospital and local mortuary to the appointed funeral director as soon as possible after the post-mortem examination has been completed. They do not need to wait for the Pathologist’s report.


A Coroner may decide that an inquest is necessary. An inquest is a public court hearing held by the Coroner to ascertain who died and how, when and where the death happened. It may be held with or without a jury, depending on the circumstances. At the inquest the Coroner will consider evidence from witnesses and other evidence such as the post-mortem reports.

Not all deaths referred to the Coroner need to have an inquest. The Coroner will tell you if an inquest is required. An inquest is different from other types of court hearing because there is no prosecution or defence. The purpose of the inquest is only to discover the facts of the death the Coroner (or jury) cannot find anyone criminally responsible for the death or apportion blame.

However, if evidence is found that suggests someone may be criminally responsible for the death, the Coroner can pass the evidence to the police or the Crown Prosecution Service.

Our local Coroner's Office

The London Inner South Coroner is responsible for investigating deaths referred to the Coroner that have occurred in the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich.

London Inner South Coroner's Court (innersouthlondoncoroner.org.uk)

1 Tennis Street
Call: 020 7525 4200

This is a post-mortem examination carried out with the consent of the family or representative of the patient. This is different to a Coroner post-mortem in that it is only carried out when a Doctor already knows the cause of death and the MCCD has been accepted by you.

The Doctor may seek permission from you to carry out a hospital consented post-mortem if they feel that it may help in determining a more definitive diagnosis, give information about the effect of treatment given, or the events leading up to death. They can also be useful to better understand how a disease has spread; or whether the person who died had a genetically inherited disease (which may affect surviving relatives). Finding out more about illnesses may help doctors treat patients in the future.

The Doctor must ask you for permission to carry out this type of post-mortem unless the person had already given their signed permission during their life. If consent has been given by the person during their lifetime this is binding in law. However in practice doctors will discuss this with you before going ahead to avoid causing additional distress. You can also request a hospital consented post-mortem examination. If this is something that you would like to discuss, please speak to the Medical Examiner team.

Spiritual care team

The spiritual care team are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They support people of all faiths and beliefs and anyone who would like someone to talk to.

You can read more about our spiritual care team.

Book of remembrance

A book of remembrance is in the Chapel at St Thomas' for patients’ relatives, friends and staff who want to enter the names of those they wish to be remembered.

Names will be written in the book by a professional calligrapher in italic script. A form must be completed and there is a charge.

More details are available from the spiritual care team or the Bereavement Centre.

Visiting a loved one after they have died

You may wish to visit your loved one after they have died in hospital.

Your loved one will be moved from the ward to the mortuary and will stay in the mortuary at either Guy’s hospital or St Thomas’ hospital until they are collected by the funeral director.

Our compassionate mortuary staff will keep your loved one safe and make sure they are treated with dignity and respect until they are transferred into the care of your nominated funeral directors.

You may be able to visit your loved one in the mortuary by appointment. The visitors’ room is open 8am to 8pm every day.

Booking an appointment in the mortuary:

  • To visit Monday to Friday, 8am to 3pm, can be arranged by the Bereavement Centre or the ward.
  • To visit outside of these hours, can only be arranged by the ward.

You will need permission from the next of kin. You will be asked to complete a short form and you will need to give details about your loved one including their:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • date of death

Your funeral director should have visiting facilities if you prefer not to visit your loved in the hospital mortuary.

Tissue donation

People are becoming more aware that they can help others by donating tissue after death. Tissues such as corneas (part of the eye), bone, tendons, heart valves and skin. These can save patients’ lives or sight, but most give patients relief from pain and suffering.

Even if your loved one does not have a donor card, relatives can give permission for tissue donation on their behalf.

The decision to donate is, of course, very personal, and it is important that you have an opportunity to consider this. You can ask the medical team or Bereavement Centre staff for more information to help you with your decision.

The best time for donation is within 24 hours after someone has died. However, sometimes it is possible to donate up to 48 hours after death. After this it will not be possible.

You can contact NHS Blood and Transplant, Tissue Services, call: 0800 432 0559 (freephone)

The Bereavement Centre will keep any personal possessions given to them by ward staff safely until you can collect them. They can be kept for a maximum of 3 months after that we will need to dispose of this property.

NHS equipment at home

Any NHS equipment that was being used in the home should be returned to the provider. This could be the hospital, GP or health centre. Please contact the GP or community nurse for more advice and assistance.

Your own equipment at home

If any equipment was privately owned and you would like to donate it, there are charitable centres that may take the equipment and put it to good use. You can usually find these online.

Contact us

Bereavement Centres
Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 4pm.

Guy’s Hospital
Floor 14
Tower Wing
call 020 7188 3215

St Thomas’ Hospital
2nd floor, Block B
South Wing
call 020 7188 3198 or 020 7188 3182 or 020 7188 8965

Medical Examiner Office
Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm

St Thomas's Hospital
2nd floor, Block B
South Wing
call 020 7188 9450
email [email protected]

Spiritual care team
Guy's Hospital, call 020 7188 1185
St Thomas' Hospital call 020 7188 1187

Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 3pm
Guy’s Hospital, call 020 7188 3931
St Thomas’ Hospital call 020 7188 3928

Registering a death that occurs at Guy’s Hospital
Southwark Registry Office
34 Peckham Road
call 020 7525 7651
Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm

Registering a death that occurs at St Thomas’ Hospital
Lambeth Registry Office
Brixton Town Hall
Brixton Hill
call 020 7926 9420
Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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