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Independents' Day

DHSC 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 new emergency Government guidelines.

The new guidance on how to confirm expected deaths outside of hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic states that non-medical professionals are able to carry out verification if they are helped remotely by a clinician guiding them through a set of checks.

During core practice hours, a GP from the deceased patient’s practice should provide remote assistance, but outside of core hours NHS 11 should be called so a clinician can go through the checks remotely.

However, the guidance stresses that non-medical professionals ‘should not experience any pressure to verify deaths’ and if they are not comfortable doing so with remote support then they should defer to the patient’s GP, NHS 111 or other primary care provider.

Under current laws in England, any competent person is able to verify death.

The Government said its new guidance is designed to clarify existing practice for the verification of death outside of hospitals and also provide a safe framework during the pandemic.

In cases where a non-medical professional verifies a death with remote support, this is ‘usually and normally independent of family members’, said the guidance.

The guidance also added: ‘This [remote approach] helps 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 new guidance is applicable to both confirmed and unconfirmed Covid-19 cases and all adult deaths in all settings, except for when a case must be reported to the coroner.

It comes following a dispute between the BMA and some coroners over whether a trained GP or other healthcare professional should have to physically attend a patient to verify death.

Coroners in London admitted that while the law does not require a certain person to confirm someone has died, it is their belief this should only be done by ‘a healthcare professional who has undertaken the appropriate training’.

But the BMA argued remote verification is possible, to avoid doctors being taken away from frontline care and also risking potential transmission of coronavirus.

The guidance, released today by the Department of Health and Social Care, said: ‘Verification of death is performed by professionals trained to do so in line with their employers’ policies (for example medical practitioners, registered nurses or paramedics) or by others with remote clinical support.’

Readers' comments (13)

  • Is there any contractual requirement for this ?

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  • Coroners 1 BMA 0

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  • There has never been any legal or contractual requirement to do this. So this clarification wasn't needed anyway.

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  • Verification of death now turned into a 20 minutes process, where are the BMA?
    see page 31 of
    much better document

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  • not a legal, contractual or regulatory requirement.
    has been custom and practice but that does not make it a requirement.
    this guidance has no force of law or contract

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  • And of course Coroners say that the attending undertaker has no idea what a dead person looks like!!

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  • I do not see how we can decide CPR is not necessary without confirming death or absence od death; and as a GP has a duty of care to the patient up until the point of death, the only way out is to attend and confirm death, as otherwise we are contractually obliged to attend to provide treatment?

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  • I once attended a distant rural farmhouse about half an hour after wife and son noted death, and I brought the patient back to life just by untucking his shirts after checking for a response. None had been elicitable earlier.

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  • How about reaper drones with thermal imaging? Might be the quickest way to get around so many nursing homes....just phone the Matron before the fly by to see how many staff or residents there are supposed to be then compare with the thermals.........and probably no less idiotic an idea than anything else thats come out of NHSe (In case they are reading this,....... I am joking....I just wish you guys were )

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  • Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says, "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence; then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says, "OK, now what?"
    Might be helpful?

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