Will Wollaston's Covid-19 mortuary become Northamptonshire's permanent facility?

An appraisal is being put together to decide whether to mothball or make permanent the emergency mortuary set up during the early months of the pandemic

The mortuary was set up on Wollaston's former recycling centre.
The mortuary was set up on Wollaston's former recycling centre.

Plans to make Wollaston’s Covid-19 mortuary permanent are moving forward.

A full options appraising is now underway to work out whether turning the makeshift mortuary – set up on the former Wollaston landfill site – permanent, is a good idea.

A report to go before Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet next week (Sept 8), says the ambition is to makeThe Leys a permanent mortuary which would be used for all community deaths and only the deceased that required a post mortem examination would go into a hospital mortuary.

The mortuary, which was set up under emergency powers, has been ‘stood down’ since the last body left on June 2 but could be ready for use again come a second coronavirus wave this winter.

The report says that the county’s current mortuary capacity of 138 spaces at the two acute hospitals (which increases to 232 during an emergency by the use of racking) has been criticised by the Human Tissue Authority as insufficient.

It says: “In order to fully understand the potential future use of the site, including additional costs, potential savings and income generation opportunities a full options appraisal is being developed which will consider the following: Stop the programme now and mothball the site. Reactivate the site for Covid only deaths . Plan to utilise the site for known county seasonal pressures potentially twice a year at Winter and Easter . Mobilise the site for 365 days a year for all community deaths, and to provide support for mass fatalities for the county and potentially the region.

This option would include exploring income generating opportunities such as with neighbouring authorities and cost savings such as from all community deaths coming to the site rather than going to the hospital mortuaries first for judicial decision. This, for example, might save approximately £180 per deceased.”

The mortuary was set up under special emergency powers and so only has planning permission until December. If it were to become a permanent mortuary it would need planning consent from Wellingborough Council.

The report reveals that from when it opened on April 10 until June 2 when the last body was removed, 317 bodies were stored at the mortuary .

300 were sent there from Northampton General, with the rest from Kettering General.

Redeployed council staff and volunteers were released from the site on June 5 and hired storage equipment was removed in following days.

At the end of June equipment from the Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government was sent to the site and has now been installed ready for further use. There is now capacity for 702 bays.

The cost of the facility so far has been £838,000. £420,000 was from set up costs, £196,00 for a power supply, £43,000 for cleaning, £61,000 security, £93,000 equipment and £12,500 on staffing. This cost will be met from the £35 million covid emergency funding the government gave to the authority to cover the pandemic costs.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper when you do your weekly shop.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.

Thank you

David Summers