December 22, 2020 12.46 pm This story is over 12 months old

Woodhall Spa COVID mortuary up and running after “significantly higher” death toll

Crematoriums expected to be busy over the next fortnight

A temporary mortuary in Woodhall Spa set up in the first COVID-19 wave has been brought into operation after an increasing death toll in the county.

Lincolnshire Resilience Forum confirmed the measures had been taken in the last 24 hours.

The LRF said the county was seeing a significantly higher number of deaths than usual, and there was less capacity at crematoriums over the next fortnight.

Sara Barry, chair of the mortality planning cell, part of Lincolnshire Resilience Forum, said: “The Woodhall Mortuary is a purpose-built facility that has been on standby for several months, and is now being used.

“We have been able to put processes in place to ensure the same levels of care, dignity and respect for loved ones, who may need to be located there before their family can pay their final respects.

“Please rest assured that your loved one is looked after with the care that they deserve at all times.”

Bishop of Grantham, Rt Revd Dr Nicholas Chamberlain, visited the facility.

He said: “This is a facility prepared with huge respect and huge understanding of the dignity of those who have died.

“I have met some of the staff and I came away obviously sobered by what I saw but actually filled with a sense of how well Lincolnshire has done this to care for the people of our county.

He thanked those involved and said he was “mindful of all who are affected”.

The mortuary at RAF Woodhall Spa was part of preparations by the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum for worst case scenarios, in case of a massive rise in numbers of coronavirus fatalities.

The hope was to enable those who died to be “treated with dignity and respect.”

It can be used to store up to 500 bodies of people who died with COVID-19.

The MoD still owns the warehouses on the former RAF base. | Photo: John Aron for The Lincolnite

On Monday, five more deaths were confirmed by government, with three in Lincolnshire’s hospitals.

So far in December there have been 294 deaths of Lincolnshire residents confirmed in government figures, with 163 deaths taking place in local hospitals.

Last week Lincolnshire families were asked to travel further away to attend funerals and crematoriums, as deaths doubled in the county compared to this time last year.

Local health bosses urged families in Lincolnshire to be as flexible as possible when arranging funerals of loved ones this winter.

For that week, 94 of Lincolnshire’s 651 deaths – nearly 15% – mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate.

The extra 15% put a strain on funeral directors as it increased the number of those needing a funeral arranged.

At the end of November, the county’s average weekly deaths rose by nearly 60% on 2019, from 175 to 275.

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