Potential Disaster Reporting

Covid-19 Coroner planning for excess deaths 

What was the problem? 

At the start of the Covid 19 pandemic we had very little information and a potential disaster looming. Our Emergency Planning team were there to guide us, but this was a completely new situation and there were still some key questions: 

  • How might the pandemic interrupt the usual process for handling deaths? 
  • How could we find out what Funeral Directors could offer; and how could we support them to do their jobs? 
  • How might we know when mortuaries were under pressure? 
  • What was the situation with crematoria and burial sites? 
  • How could we design a digital data capture system that would be accessible to stakeholders with low digital confidence?  
  • What kind of tools and expertise were available? 

What did we do?  

In March 2020 a small team designed and built an end to end data capture and reporting system so that we could ask funeral directors and mortuaries what they were experiencing. 

The system is called ‘Key Insights’ and took a holistic approach to capturing business data, storing it centrally and then reporting on it. Throughout the pandemic we have been able to monitor the capacity of hospital mortuaries, funeral director homes, crematoria, and burial grounds.  


The data base is automatically updated each week when our industry colleagues provide their latest figures – this allows us not only to monitor trends so that we can provide support if it is required but it also provides the data for our weekly situation report to the Local Resilience Forum each Monday. 

Without this database the collecting of the information would be a very time-consuming business for the team members – all of whom have been able to return to their substantive posts whilst Key Insights does all the hard work for us. We’ve also had very positive feedback from Funeral Directors and mortuary staff, who appreciate how easy and secure it is for them to send the information to us. 

It has stood the test of time 

Skip to January 2021 and the system is still using the Operation Crane system to look at highlights and numbers, so they know if there is anything to worry about. 

What Did The Client Say? 

Rosalie Robison, Crown Services Officer and Business Support Manager   

It’s brilliant – if we didn’t have this it would be so time consuming to get the figures together. It’s made us much more aware of the actual real-life situation and the amount of capacity we can call on. We can sit back and keep an eye on it.” 

The ability to leverage capacity within the funeral home market has meant that we no longer run a temporary mortuary in Devon. If we need to support the funeral directors, we can do that at a much lower cost – they are the experts in supporting bereavement and it is much more reassuring for the public to know that deaths are being handled as normal. 

Rosalie feels that helping to develop this solution has changed her approach to problem solving:  

“Moving forward I would definitely think more data way.”  

She has also found that using the system has made the team more confident in terms of digital skills, explaining  

“I had no idea how to deal with any of this stuff before. I had no idea you could get all this information into one place so people can click into a link”.