Last reviewed 13 May 2020

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has issued new emergency guidelines on verifying death in times of emergency, which says GPs can provide "remote clinical support" for death verification.

GPs are not required to verify deaths in person during the COVID-19 pandemic but are expected to provide remote clinical support, according to the new emergency government guidelines.

"Coronavirus (COVID-19): Verifying Death in Times of Emergency", published 5 May, is designed to clarify existing practice for the verification of death outside of hospitals and to provide a framework for safe verification of death in the Coronavirus emergency period.

It aims to help avoid long delays in waiting for verification before the deceased person can be moved when medical practitioners are unavailable, which can be distressing for their families and those close to them.

The guideline applies to all cases outside hospital when verification of death may be completed by people who have been trained to do so in line with their employer’s policies, including medical practitioners, registered nurses or paramedics. It is also exercised by other non-medical professionals, usually and normally independent of family members, who are verifying death using remote clinical support.

The guidance can be applied to verification of all expected deaths during this emergency period, at the end of which the guidance will be reviewed. It should be applied for both confirmed and unconfirmed COVID-19 cases and is relevant to all adult deaths in all settings, including healthcare, social care and domiciliary settings, with the exception of when a case must be reported to the coroner.

The guidance doesn't duplicate existing verification of death and care after death policies and procedures that already exist locally and nationally.

The guideline is available at: www.gov.uk

A link is provided to the RCGP's and BMA's "Guidance for Remote Verification of Expected Death (VoED) Out of Hospital", which is available at: www.rcgp.org.uk