'Dignity in death' at revamped Royal Shrewsbury Hospital mortuary

It's the place people only visit at their lowest moments.

'Dignity in death' at revamped Royal Shrewsbury Hospital mortuary

Bereaved families gather at the mortuary at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital to say goodbye to a loved one or to identify someone who has died.

It's a solemn time filled with sadness for those making the dreaded journey.

That is why the trust which runs the hospital has spent £1.89 million to upgrade the hospital's previously outdated mortuary.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust board has transformed the mortuary, which was built in the 1970s, to improve dignity in death and reduce the risk of breakdown.

Jules Lewis with Russell Haddock

The work has involved creating a new courtyard area, new waiting area and creating two "swan" bereavement suites as well as a "cygnet" suite for children.

There has also been an improved entrance from the car park and better cloakroom facilities for visitors.

"It is so different to what we had before," says Jules Lewis, end of life facilitator at SaTH.

"We have such a grand entrance now and I think it looks lovely. It has a new sign and we have a garden area as well. That is an area that people can use for some fresh air and a time for reflection. There is a water feature and gazebo for the winter months.

"SJ Roberts has done a brilliant job transforming it for us.

"It is so much better than what it was. The whole area is much more welcoming."

The new Swan Bereavement Suite

Russell Haddock, chief anatomical pathology technologist, said: "We are so pleased. The area has been designed to be comfortable and easier for relatives.

"We want to make it as easy for families as we can.

"We have changed the names of the viewing rooms to swans suites. We have also put calming art work and a mural in the larger room.

"It is so much better and I am so pleased. It is going to make such a difference."

Jules said in order to develop the mortuary she visited local hospices and spoke to members of staff.

She said: "It can be a very frightening time for relatives so we wanted to make it a calming environment.

"Swan room two is an area where high risk cases can go. It is geared for infectious cases. We did not have an area like that before.

"There is a viewing area so families do not need to be in the room with the body. It has a window into the waiting area which has all new furniture in.

"In the children's cygnet suite we have a family area with pictures the Harry Johnson Trust donated to us.

"We felt it was really important to get this area right for parents of the children who have passed away. Lots of thought has gone into it."

After visiting the 40-year-old site last year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said the mortuary was "not safe" and "inadequately maintained", with the fridges where the deceased were kept regularly malfunctioning.

The trust board agreed in October 2014 to spend £1.4 million on improvements, and a planning application was submitted to Shropshire Council.

Mr Haddock said: "We have tried to look to the future. We have gone above and beyond what the CQC identified we needed to improve."

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