November 16, 2020 5.08 pm This story is over 42 months old

Lincolnshire COVID-19 mortuary on standby as death toll rises

Hospital capacity is near maximum

A temporary mortuary in Woodhall Spa set up in the first COVID-19 wave could be used in the next two weeks if numbers continue to rise.

Bosses at the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum have revealed how Pilgrim Hospitals capacity for storing dead bodies has nearly reached capacity.

Over the past seven days there have been 78 deaths according to government figures, with 40 of those taking place in the county’s hospitals.

In total 393 people have died in Lincolnshire after testing COVID-positive according to government figures, of which 208 have been in the county’s hospitals.

Lincolnshire Police Chief Superintendent Paul Timmins, who is leading the LRF, said morgue capacity at Boston had reached more than 90%.

He said bodies could be transferred to Lincoln if needed.

“The NHS will operate normally at quite high levels of capacity, but for this we are close to 90% in terms of capacity at Boston, but there’s a significant amount of capacity available at Lincoln,” he said.

“One of the sad effects of COVID is that when you get increased numbers of deaths, it’s going to start causing a delay in these sorts of things,” he added.

He said the Woodhall Spa build was “always on our mind” and discussed on a daily basis as to whether it needs to be stood up.

“At the moment, the answer is no, we don’t need to yet, but certainly what we can say is that as things are progressing and if things don’t change in terms of the direction of travel that we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, then we could very well get to that position in the next couple of weeks.”

The plan was to store up to 500 bodies in warehouses on a former RAF airfield 16 miles south east of Lincoln. | Photo: John Aron

C/Supt Timmins said providing staff resources from elsewhere to help hospital transport patients was important to show that loved ones are “being treated properly and with respect, and that we’re finding good places for them to be stored until such time they can go through a medical examiner or funeral processes.”

There have been 2,774 cases of coronavirus in Lincolnshire alone over the past seven days — the biggest single-week increase since the pandemic began and one which continues currently to rise — particularly on the coast with East Lindsey

United Lincolnshire’s Hospitals Trust was forced to declare a “critical incident” across Pilgrim Hospital and Lincoln County Hospital on Friday due to high patient numbers and “critically low” staffing.

It was expected to last until Wednesday, but was stood down on Monday after “slight improvement”.

A hospital spokesperson told The Lincolnite: “Contingency plans are in place should capacity become an issue in our hospital mortuaries.

“These have not had to be enacted and should we need to make any transfers, we will be contacting the families concerned before any moves are made.”