Wollaston mortuary 'reactivated' ready for backlog of bodies to cope with winter death rates

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The Leys is to be used as part of the county's 'death management activation plan'

A space where bodies are temporarily stored to help Northamptonshire's hospital mortuaries and funeral homes' capacity has been ‘reactivated’.

The Leys, a temporary mortuary in Wollaston in Hardwater Road, is shared, owned and managed by both West and North Northamptonshire Councils.

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Used to support both Northampton and Kettering General Hospitals with mortuary capacity during the height of the Covid pandemic the facility is now used to cope with seasonal demand.

Wollaston, temporary mortuary, The Leys,Wollaston, temporary mortuary, The Leys,
Wollaston, temporary mortuary, The Leys,

Sadie Nightingale, head of coroners and West and North Northamptonshire registration service and excess deaths county lead, has been liaising with the county hospital trusts and funeral directors.

She said: "There’s been a four-day bank holiday followed by a three-day bank holiday. Opening times for funeral directors have been tricky.

"During the previous two winters, The Leys facility in Wollaston has opened to support both Northampton and Kettering General Hospitals with mortuary capacity during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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“Winter is a time when respiratory illnesses increase, and this year it has been predicted that there will be a higher number of illnesses circulating.

Security is tight at the facility in Wollaston, temporary mortuarySecurity is tight at the facility in Wollaston, temporary mortuary
Security is tight at the facility in Wollaston, temporary mortuary

“As such, The Leys reopened last week to support the county’s health system. This enables the management of capacity and care for the deceased within the North and West Northamptonshire areas with compassion and respect.

“We would like to thank Wollaston residents in particular for the way in which they responded to the site opening in previous years and their on-going support.”

Although funeral directors have the capacity families are not keen to organise funerals for the festive period, leading to a backlog.

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Currently, Northampton General Hospital mortuary has space for 146 bodies and Kettering General Hospital has room for 103 after additional racking was installed to increase capacity.

As part of the county's 'death management activation plan' The Leys temporary body store will increase the county's capacity by nearly 200 - 184 refrigerated spaces and 12 frozen.

Previously, residents in Wollaston have been sent letters to warn them of potential increased traffic on roads leading to the site located on the road between Great Doddington and Wollaston.

The Leys originally opened in April 2020 on land owned by the former Northamptonshire County Council that housed a former tip - the site has been activated several times for eight-week periods.

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Centrally located for ease of access for county funeral directors, the facility also has been used by neighbouring Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes.

With 24-hour security measures, The Leys has two large cold rooms with mortuary-level racking, an office and covered reception area for discreet transport to and from the site.

Initially equipment was on loan from central government but now the facility is owned by Northamptonshire's councils.

Death rates are naturally higher during the winter months with extra pressures from flu as well as Covid.

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It is understood that letters will be sent out to residents in the Wollaston area warning them of the potential increased traffic.

Cllr Martin Griffiths (Ind, Irchester) said: “I have been a little bit disappointed that our elected members on the unitary and parish council and residents haven’t been kept informed.”

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