New laws will require doctors to report any unnatural deaths, or those with no obvious cause, to the coroner.

According to guidance from the chief coroner the new rules will provide professionals with an element of clarity that is currently lacking.

“There are, at present, no statutory criteria for medical practitioners reporting deaths to coroners,” it states. “This has sometimes created uncertainty and inconsistency. When should a doctor report a death to the coroner? The answer to this question is not definite.”

Under the new regulations doctors will also be obliged to report deaths when the identity of the deceased cannot be ascertained or has taken place “in custody or otherwise in state detention”.

In a statement the Ministry of Justice said: “The new regulations will ensure best practice by requiring all medical practitioners by law to report deaths of an unknown cause or unnatural deaths to coroners in a timely manner.”

The Notification of Deaths Regulations 2019 will come into force from 1 October.