Research Article

Death certification in general practice: review of records.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 288 doi: (Published 14 April 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;288:1127
  1. D A Black,
  2. S J Jachuck


    The records of death that had been certified by general practitioners in one practice over 18 years were assessed in the light of the recent joint publications of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Pathologists. Over this period roughly 30% of the deaths in the practice population occurred outside hospital and a total of 262 certificates were issued. A review of 262 counterfoils of records of death certification showed that 12 counterfoils (4.6%) had no age and sex mentioned, and three counterfoils did not describe the place of death. The average age at death outside hospital was 71.6 years--the age of women being 75.1 years compared with that of men of 68.2 years. Only 2% of patients had had a necropsy. The common causes of death stated in the certificates were: cardiovascular 41%, carcinoma 35%, respiratory 15%, and stroke 8%. All contributory causes are also mentioned. Ninety seven per cent of the patients were seen after death by the doctors in the practice and 68% had been seen in the two days preceding death. We emphasise the importance of keeping accurate records of deaths in general practice for audit and research as well as for planning services for terminally ill and recently bereaved patients.