Birmingham temporary mortuary 'already taking bodies'

8 April 2020, 22:58

The mortuary is still being built
The mortuary is still being built. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

A temporary mortuary at Birmingham Airport has already started taking bodies despite not being fully operational yet.

The mortuary, which is being built to help cope with an increase in deaths during the Covid-19 outbreak, is nearly finished.

Part of the site - which will initially have space for 1,500 bodies - is already being used for storage, according to the West Midlands and Warwickshire strategic co-ordination group (SCG), made up of police, councils and other agencies, including the coroner.

Officials said the facility will be fully operational by next Friday, April 17, "at the latest".

At the site on Wednesday three new white marquee structures have been put up in the past week, next to a large hangar located at the airport's commercial freight and cargo handling area.

It is understood the site could expand to accommodate up to 12,000 bodies.

In a statement released through the West Midlands Police website, the SCG said: "We would urge bereaved families not to delay in making funeral arrangements for their loved one, particularly because of the current restrictions regarding the number of attendees at funerals.

"Many burial sites and crematoriums are continuing services throughout the bank holiday weekend to prevent prolonged storage.

"We understand that these current restrictions mean that you may not be able to arrange the service you want, but we ask you to consider an alternative such as a memorial service or celebration of life at a later date.

"Other considerations include live-streaming the cremation or burial to enable family members and friends to participate."

The statement concluded that the authorities are working with all bereaved people planning funeral services to make sure all deaths are dealt with compassionately.

The Birmingham NEC is being converted into an NHS Nightingale
The Birmingham NEC is being converted into an NHS Nightingale. Picture: PA

Birmingham will soon also have a Nightingale Hospital being built at the NEC

It is expected to be open and fully operational on April 12, senior regional health chiefs have said.

There will be a "mock-up" running on April 10, with doors opening to patients two days later.

The site on the outskirts of Birmingham, just off the M42, will initially have a 500-bed capacity which can be scaled up to about 1,500 or more if needed.

Nick Page, of the West Midlands and Warwickshire strategic co-ordination group (SCG), said the hospital will begin "full admission" by the end of next week.

Speaking at a webinar of regional civic, health and transport chiefs on Friday, Mr Page, who is Solihull council chief executive, said: "The 10th of April is when the Birmingham Nightingale Hospital will be ready to see patients.

"As I understand it, they will be running the mock up of that on April 10 ready to start full admission in and around the April 12."

He added that Birmingham's first drive-through Covid-19 testing station for NHS workers is being set up at Edgbaston cricket ground, and it will be fully operational by Monday.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said that following a call to health chiefs earlier on Friday, no further testing sites in the region are scheduled to open - but he added: "They are looking to change that very shortly."

The NHS Nightingale Hospital in London was formally opened at the ExCel centre on Friday by the Prince of Wales, who spoke via video-link from Balmoral.

The facility, named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, will need an army of up to 16,000 staff in clinical and ancillary roles to keep it running.

Split into more than 80 wards containing 42 beds each, the facility will be used to treat Covid-19 patients who have been transferred from other intensive care units across London.

It was set up by NHS contractors in just over a week with the assistance of around 200 military personnel.