A pathway for caring for patients after death has been developed in the first national guidance on “last offices”.

The guidelines, developed by the NHS National End of Life Care Programme, cover a range of issues such as organ and tissue donation, coroners’ requirements and the health and safety of staff, as well as practical guidance on how to treat a dead body.

They have been drawn up in response to a lack of training and guidance on the issue. An investigation by HSJ’s sister title Nursing Times last year suggested procedures – traditionally covered by the term “last offices” – were not carried out properly for more than half of deceased hospital patients.

The guidelines’ lead author Jo Wilson said it was the first time a “clear articulation of the pathway of care” had been produced.

National End of Life Care Programme director Claire Henry said: “It should help professionals and teams, but also encourage organisations to develop training and protocols in this sensitive area of care”.

A revised version of the Department of Health’s 2005 document When a Patient Dies, which sets out overarching recommendations for developing NHS bereavement services, will also be published this year.