National Records of Scotland

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Death Certificates and Coding the Causes of Death

Death Certificates and Coding the Causes of Death

Last updated August 2017

This section describes briefly how causes of death are recorded on death certificates, and provides links to examples of the Medical Certificates of the Cause of Death (MCCD) and the guidance which is given to doctors. It then mentions the bases on which figures can be produced, and indicates how the causes of death are coded, and describes the main changes to the coding of cause of death between 2010 and 2011, and between 2016 and 2017.

New arrangements for the certification and registration of deaths in Scotland were introduced on 13 May 2015, as explained on the Scottish Government website. These included the introduction of independent checks on the accuracy of a sample of MCCDs. Information on all aspects of the Death Certification Review Service is available on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.

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  • The medical certificate of the cause of death describes briefly how causes of death are recorded on death certificates, and provides links to examples of the medical certificate of the cause of death and the guidance which is given to doctors;
  • The bases on which figures can be produced (PDF 21 Kb) explains the three different bases on which figures for a particular cause of death can be produced.  
  • Coding the causes of death (PDF 32 Kb) explains how the causes of death are coded in accordance with the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), gives examples of how the ICD-10 rules can lead to something that might not be expected by someone unfamiliar with ICD-10 being identified as the underlying cause of death, and provides references to ICD-10 and some other material on coding the causes of death.
  • Changes to the coding of causes of death between 2010 and 2011 (PDF 46 Kb) describes the main effects on National Records of Scotland's statistics of causes of death of changing to a new version of the automatic cause of death coding software, which took account of some World Health Organisation updates to ICD-10 and therefore caused some breaks in the continuity of the statistics between 2010 and 2011.
  • The Impact of the Implementation of IRIS Software for ICD-10 Cause of Death Coding on Mortality Statistics in Scotland (PDF 259 Kb) describes the impact of National Records of Scotland (NRS) implementing new software (IRIS) from January 2017 for coding the cause of death, replacing the previous Mortality Medical Data System (MMDS) software.

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