Intended for healthcare professionals


Covid 19: death certification in England and Wales

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 21 April 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1571

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  1. Tom Luce, chair of 2001-03 fundamental review of death certification and investigation
  1. London, UK
  1. Tom.luce{at}

Thorough scrutiny of deaths remains essential during the covid-19 epidemic

Different views may be aired on the timeliness of the government’s overall response to the predictable arrival in the UK of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, however, there has been, at least in England and Wales, much prompt and comprehensive guidance from the relevant regulatory and service agencies. They include the general register office, the Ministry of Justice, the chief coroner for England and Wales, and NHS England.

Underpinning much of the guidance is the Coronavirus Act 2020, enacted quickly on 25 March 2020 with multiparty support. The act temporarily modifies some important death registration processes to reflect limitations imposed by lockdown and pressures on the medical profession. These include extending the period within which a doctor signing the death certificate should have “attended” the deceased from 14 to 28 days, allowing video consultation to meet that requirement, and, subject to the coroner’s approval,1 accepting a non-attending doctor as signatory …

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