Temporary mortuary to remain in South Bristol

October 05 2020
Temporary mortuary to remain in South Bristol

A temporary mortuary in South Bristol - along with another in Yate - is being retained as the region braces for a potential second coronavirus wave and winter deaths.

by BBC LDRS staff for 
South Bristol Voice
The city council has decided to maintain the place of rest at Sandy Park, which has so far not been needed, for another six months as the cost of dismantling and reassembling is the same as keeping it. Bristol director of public health Christina Gray has taken the decision to keep operational the pop-up mortuary at the local authority’s vehicle depot in Sandy Park, Brislington.
Her decision, posted on Bristol City Council’s website, said the money to maintain it until at least next March was from the Government’s ring-fenced Local Outbreak Management (Test and Trace Fund).
It said: “This will mean that body storage capacity in the city, both in existing, substantive mortuaries and at funeral director premises, can be maintained during any local outbreak or wider general increase of Covid-19-related deaths.
“Body storage capacity is an identified risk in the management of any excess death.
“Existing winter pressures put the system under strain.
“A breach of body storage capacity would present a serious challenge to the management of a local outbreak.
“The cost of dismantling and reassembling the facility would be £90,000.”
It said an alternative option not to retain it was“discounted as cost to reassemble equals the cost of maintaining the facility”.
An extension to the permanent morgue at Flax Bourton was in the early planning stages and would not be ready within six months, the decision added.
Six temperature-controlled containers covered by a large gazebo that can store 240 bodies were installed in April to cope with a worst-case scenario of a huge rise in deaths which has so far not panned out.
It increased the storage capacity for people who have died in Bristol by almost two-thirds.
South Gloucestershire Council’s overflow morgue at its Broad Lane depot in Yate stored up to 18 bodies at a time when it was operational during the Covid-19 peak from April to July.
It was required when the number of deaths locally overwhelmed capacity at funeral directors, although none taken there were victims of the pandemic.
The temporary mortuary is effectively mothballed but is also being retained amid the prospect of future local outbreaks as the region experiences what public health chiefs describe as a“rising tide” of cases which are a“cause for concern but not alarm”.
A 24-hour mental health helpline is being rolled out to adults across the West of England to help them cope with the impact of Covid-19. 
NHS bosses are forecasting a 30 per cent spike in demand for mental health support as people grieve for loved ones, lose their jobs or are exposed to abuse at home. 
The Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire clinical commissioning group was warned that without action, the system would have been unable to cope. 
A report to its governing body in September said: “We may see a 30 per cent increase in mental health need as a result of COVID-19. 
“A key factor will be the economic impact – if it is similar to that of the post-2008 recession, we could expect a significant increase in mental health problems. 
“If unmitigated, this‘surge’ poses a significant risk to people experiencing crisis due to delays or reduced treatment, affecting lives and putting pressure on other areas of our system.”
It adds: “Whilst most of the population will emerge without lasting negative effects on their mental health, some communities and people with specific characteristics are at far greater risk of worsening mental health.”
The CCG agreed to a package of support in July and much of it is now in place. 
A CCG spokesperson said: “We’re currently working on a range of measures to support people across our area.
People can access the helpline by calling 0800 012 6549 or visiting www.vitahealthgroup.co.uk/247supportandconnect”