COVID-19 - Bereavement and funeral guidance
We appreciate this is an incredibly difficult time for people in mourning. The death of a loved one can be among the most difficult moments any of us will face in our lives, and it often falls to those closest to the deceased to organise the funeral.
The information on this page specifically provides advice and changes relating to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is designed to:
- explain the next steps
- answer some of your questions
- direct you to extra help and support available
Registering a death
There have been some changes to the normal death registration process. These are to facilitate social distancing practices and to make the process easier. As a result, a death is currently registered in a telephone call with us.
The first step is to contact the doctor (GP) or hospital about obtaining the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD). If a doctor is able to issue the MCCD, the death can be registered with the register office of the council area where the death occurred. You can check this using the council area look-up tool.
If this is Swindon, please call the register office on 01793 522738 to make a telephone appointment to register the death.
After this appointment, the registrar can issue paperwork straight to your funeral director.
The death must be registered by the registrar within five days. Any delay due to the coroner’s involvement is not counted within this time frame.
Involvement of the coroner
If a doctor is unable to issue the MCCD, then the death will be referred to the coroner.
In these circumstances, the office of HM Coroner will call you to discuss further options, but it may take longer than usual.
Who can register the death
The person who registers the death is formally known as the 'the informant'. Only relatives or certain other people are qualified by law to register a death. This will also depend on where the death occurred.
If the death occurred inside a house or public building, such as a hospital or care home, the following people may register the death:
- A relative
- Someone who was present at the death
- The occupier of the house or an official from the public building where the death occurred
- The person making the arrangements with the funeral director
- The funeral director
Information you need to register a death
When you speak to the registrar, they will be as helpful as they can in registering the death. They will need the following information:
- Date and place of the death
- The address of the deceased person
- Their full name (including the maiden name of a married woman). Any former married or civil partnership names or other names by which the deceased was known can also be recorded.
- Where and when they were born (the town or county is sufficient if the exact address is not known). Only the country of origin is required for people born outside the United Kingdom. The country is recorded according to its current name if this is different from how it was known when the deceased was born.
- Their occupation
- Details of their wife or husband or civil partner (if any)
- If possible, you should also have the deceased’s NHS card (also called the medical card)
The registration process takes approximately 30 minutes.
You will be given the opportunity to purchase death certificates for a fee of £11 each. These may be required to advise financial institutions, such as banks, insurance companies and pension providers.
You will also be offered the ‘Tell Us Once’ service, which enables you to notify relevant local authority and government departments, for example electoral roll, Blue Badge, the DWP, HMRC and the DVLA, via one phone call or online form.
The increased pressure on public services means it may take longer than usual to issue funeral paperwork.
If you have a funeral director you wish to use, please contact them to arrange for the deceased to be collected. If you don’t currently have a funeral director, you can find an industry-inspected local funeral director at:
- National Association of Funeral Directors
- National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors
These organisations have codes of practice, and they must give you a price list when asked. Your funeral director will be able to discuss funeral arrangements with you regarding burial or cremation.
Before a funeral
While waiting for a burial or cremation, your loved one may be cared for in the temporary mortuary at Great Western Hospital, Swindon or Salisbury District Hospital before being collected by your chosen funeral director. These are not public buildings and viewings cannot take place there. Your funeral director will collect your loved one from the appropriate location and take them to their premises.
Attending a funeral
In line with Government guidance, the number of people allowed to attend funerals is currently restricted. Only the following should attend:
- Members of the person’s household
- Close family members (this includes grandchildren if it is a grandparent’s funeral)
- A small number of friends, if the deceased has neither household nor family members in attendance
- A celebrant of choice, should this be requested
At a funeral, mourners must keep a safe distance of at least two metres (three steps) between one another at all times. They should also follow the advice on social distancing when travelling to and from the funeral gathering. You should only travel in the same vehicle if you live in the same home.
Mourners who are self-isolating for 14 days due to someone in their household being unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), but are not symptomatic themselves, may attend the funeral. However, they must adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Mourners who are clinically vulnerable or in a shielded group are also able to attend, but must also adhere to social distancing guidelines at all times.
When attending a funeral, make sure you:
- follow social distancing restrictions by keeping two metres away from people who don't live with you
- wash your hands often or use hand sanitiser when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
- cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
You should not attend a funeral if you are showing coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms (a new continuous cough or a high temperature). See the latest government advice on attending and staying safe at funerals.
We appreciate these restrictions mean you may not be able to arrange the service you would want, but we urge you not to delay the funeral.
Instead, consider an alternative such as a memorial service or celebration of life at a later date. You can make use of our live streaming service for a funeral at Kingdsown Crematorium, allowing family members and friends to participate. You may also be able to live stream using a mobile phone or similar device from other venues. Further information is available from the National Association of Funeral Directors.
Contact with the person's body
If a person has died with COVID-19, there must be no contact with their body before the funeral. The person who has died must be left as they are.
We appreciate this may be distressing. However, it is a necessary measure for your own protection, as the risk of infection is too great.
This includes no:
- dressing of the deceased
Funeral directors will be able to carry out religious or cultural funeral rites, as they are equipped with appropriate safety and personal protective equipment. They may also be able to facilitate viewings if appropriate.
We understand that losing a loved one can feel overwhelming. Being bereaved can be a lonely time, and isolation due to the current situation may make it even more difficult than usual.
There is a range of bereavement services and other organisations who can support you and your family. Some are listed below. Your GP may also be able to advise you about seeking support.
- Cruse Bereavement Care website
- Wiltshire Treehouse website - Support for young people
- Winston’s Wish website – Help for grieving children
- The Compassionate Friends website – Support for bereaved parents and their families
- Ipsum website - Wellbeing support
- Swindon LIFT website - Psychological help
- Swindon Carers Centre website
Financial support in the form of bereavement-related benefits may also be available.