1. What is next of kin?
  2. Common questions
  3. Give your feedback on the usefulness of this information
  4. Contact us

What is next of kin? 

What is next of kin?

Your medical next of kin is someone you nominate to receive information about your medical care.

If you have not chosen a next of kin, it will usually be assumed to be a close blood relative, spouse or civil partner.

They will be kept informed about your care.

This is separate to an inheritance next of kin which is not covered here.

Why should I choose a next of kin?

Choosing a next of kin will help to make sure the person you trust most is kept up-to-date about your medical care.

It can also help to avoid conflict between your loved ones.

Does my next of kin have legal rights?

No. A medical next of kin is not defined in UK law.

This means your next of kin cannot give consent to providing or withholding care.

Choosing a next of kin is not the same as appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney. A Lasting Power of Attorney can make health and care decisions for you if you lose mental capacity. For more information, see our advice booklet Planning for your future care.

More information about next of kin is available online at

Common Questions

Who can be my next of kin? 

Your choice should be someone you feel close to. It does not have to be a blood relative or spouse. Before listing them on any medical documents you should ask their permission and explain the role.

Who should I tell?

Let your family and friends know who you have chosen. 

What should I discuss with my next of kin?

Talk about any wishes you have in the event of a serious illness. While your next of kin does not have legal powers, they may be asked about your wishes.

What does a next of kin do?

They act on your behalf if you are unable to communicate due to illness or being unconscious. They will be asked for advice and guidance on your wishes.

In the event of your death, they may need to give permission for a ‘consented postmortem’.

Will my partner automatically be my next of kin?

No. If you are a cohabiting couple and have not chosen a next of kin the hospital may seek the views of blood relatives instead. Hospitals will generally recognise spouses and civil partners as next of kin, but not cohabiting partners  or ‘common law’ spouses.

How does the hospital know who my next of kin is?

Most NHS trusts ask you to nominate your next of kin when you are admitted to hospital. You should provide their name and contact details.

What should I do if I want to change my next of kin?

Inform your GP and the hospital so that they can update your records.

What if I do not have a next of kin?

Doctors will use their discretion to liaise with family and friends. If it is an emergency and it is unclear who your next of kin is, the hospital will normally seek advice from the person they believe is closest to you. 


Source material for the information contained in this leaflet is available on request.

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Contact the Patients Association helpline

The Patients Association offers a free national helpline providing specialist information and guidance to help patients make sense of their health and social care.  

Patients can talk directly to a member of our helpline team in strict confidence about any concerns, questions or general experiences they have regarding the NHS and care systems.  

The helpline is open from 9.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and calls outside these times are returned as soon as possible during opening hours. 

If you would like to contact the helpline, please call free on 0800 345 7115, or visit the Patients Association helpline page on our website for more information.