Care After Death publication updated with new guidance for Registered Nurses on verification of expected deaths

Dec 15, 2016

A key publication for the different professionals involved in care for people just before and after death has been updated to include additional guidance for Registered Nurses on the verification of expected deaths.

Care After Death: Guidance for staff responsible for care after death (2nd edition) published in 2015 was intended to help ensure that a person who has died is cared for and that there is well co-ordinated support which respects the wishes of the deceased and their families. It is aimed at a wide cross-section of staff including nurses, mortuary staff, ambulance staff, pathologists and funeral directors.

Care After Death covers many different aspects of care after death for adults including ensuring timely verification of death, as well as other related issues such as respecting people’s cultural and religious wishes after death, preparing the deceased for viewing and facilitating people’s wishes for organ donation.

The supplementary guidance for the publication is aimed at providing greater clarity on the legal requirements for Registered Nurses about the verification of expected deaths. The two part additional resource for the publication now includes guidance on how to verify an expected death and also new competencies to support training to carry out this important aspect of care.    

Anecdotal evidence suggest that there have been some delays in verifying deaths – largely in people’s homes- which has caused unnecessary distress to grieving families. The delays have been largely due to staff not being clear about the legal requirements about verification of expected deaths.

Lead author of Care After Death Jo Wilson, who is a member of the National Nurse Consultant group for Palliative Care, and helped develop the new supplementary guidance said:

“Nurses make an enormous difference to the care of the dying person.  Having surveyed care homes we are aware how much Registered Nurses want to contribute to the care of the deceased by providing timely verification of expected death and support for bereaved families. 

“We look forward to organisations taking up this guidance, putting it into clinical practice and improving the experience of care for bereaved families."

Dr Di Laverty Consultant Nurse St Josephs Hospice Hackney, a member of the working group said:

‘As nurses we care in so many different ways for patients and their families. To be there at the end of life and perform this important role feels right and appropriate. These guidelines and competencies will ensure staff are properly equipped to complete this’.

Marie Cooper, a registered nurse and Practice Development Lead at Hospice UK, added:

“We were made aware of some gaps in essential guidance for staff involved in care after death, especially nurses working in the community, and have worked with partner organisations to address these.

“We are confident this additional guidance will ensure that all staff care are clear about their responsibilities, make the process of verifying deaths as smooth as possible and help avoid any delays that would cause distress to grieving families.”

Hospice UK collaborated with a range of organisations to develop the additional guidance   They are: the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the National Nurse Consultant Group (Palliative Care), the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC), the Association of Palliative Medicine (APM), the National Care Forum and the National Association of Hospice at Home.

Notes to editors

  • The Care After Death publication is available on Hospice UK’s website.
  • Hospice UK is the national charity for hospice care and the only membership body for organisations providing hospice care. We support and champion the work of more than 200 of these organisations across the UK.
  • Hospices, and other organisations which provide hospice care, offer vital care for people with terminal or life-limiting conditions and also support their families and carers.
  • For further information about hospice care visit our website
  • or follow us on Twitter @hospiceukPA.
  • Get all the latest news from the hospice and palliative care sector, as well as patient stories, on ehospice UK at: This service is managed by Hospice UK. You can also follow ehospice news on Twitter at @ehospicenews

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