Changes to Registering Deaths – Guidance from Tower Hamlets Council and Faith Forums For London

April 15, 2020

Registering a Death

It is a legal requirement that all deaths should be registered as soon as possible but preferably within 5 days (unless the death has been reported to the coroner).

Following government advice, the registry office is currently closed to the public but new legislation means that deaths can now be registered over the telephone during the pandemic period.

Before making a booking, please be aware of the following.

  • In order to register, you must meet certain criteria and hold certain documentation. Please ensure you read all the government guidance.
  • Please ensure the hospital or GP surgery have sent the registrar the medical cause of death certificate (MCCD) before making an appointment.
  • The green form for burial or cremation will be scanned directly to the burial or cremation ground AND a funeral director (if you wish). The registrar must know where you wish to bury or cremate your loved one when making the registration, but please check with your preferred burial or cremation ground before making an appointment.
  • You will be asked to fill a form with vital information for the registration. Please take your time and ensure that all spellings are correct. Correcting a registration costs £90 and takes at least 6 months AFTER the pandemic period.
  • It is free to register a death, but certificates are charged at a national rate and payments will be taken over the telephone. Certificates will then be sent 1st class in the post.
  • The ‘Tell Us Once’ service information will be sent separately via email at a later date.

Please ensure that you are available in a quiet place during your allocated appointment slot, with good telephone reception and a full battery. You can expect to be on the telephone for around 30 minutes but calls can take up to an hour.

To register a death, please email or call 020 7364 7880 (Monday to  Friday and to 12pm on Saturdays). There is also a weekend and bank holiday emergency burial notice service, contactable on 07946 390 834.  See here for more details.

Urgent Burials

Tower Hamlets offers a service for those belonging to various faith groups who may need to bury on the same day.  During this particularly busy time, they are requesting that anybody who needs to register a death email to book an appointment or request an urgent issue of a burial document (informally known as the ‘green form’). They cannot allow walk-in appointments for this until further notice.

Death registrations and burials will be taking priority and they will do their very best to accommodate requests as quickly as possible.  They also have the urgent burial certificate service available between 12 noon – 4pm on Saturdays and between 9am-4pm on Sundays and bank holidays.  If you require the weekend service, please call 07946 390 834.  You cannot call this number if you are not in possession of the Medical Cause of Death Certificate issued by a GP or hospital doctor, unless you have been explicitly instructed by the hospital otherwise, as they will not be able to issue the burial notice without this.

Please be aware that you will still need to book an appointment to register the death even if an emergency burial certificate is issued.

It is important to bear some other factors in mind, as advised by Faith Forums For London:

When a loved one dies it is very important to know that they are being treated with dignity and respect.  All those involved in the death management process ae aware of this and, in particular, of the need in some faiths for funerals to take place as soon as possible after death. Others would prefer to wait longer for a burial or cremation than is currently feasible.

However, it is important to know that there are currently significant pressures beyond anyone’s control which may cause delays and difficulties. Automatic referrals to the Coroner, which occur when a loved one has not seen a doctor in the 28 days before their death, are a significant factor that can cause delay for those who have died in the community.

In addition, there are sadly many more burials and cremations taking place than usual and many staff are off sick. Please be assured that the need of families are at the centre of a great deal of work that is going on to address these issues but it is inevitable that challenges will remain.