Spotlight On: Mortuary Services

Our mortuary team pride themselves on providing dignified care to the deceased, while aiding the processes of the coroner and the closure for the bereaved.

The Mortuary team looks after more than 4,000 patients a year and generally conducts over 1,000 postmortem examinations for the coroner and families annually.

As part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, we spoke to Lee Gibbs, Chief Anatomical Pathology Technologist, who has worked in the NNUH Mortuary for 24 years.

He said: “In my career I’ve probably performed roughly 30,000 postmortems. It’s an important distinction to us that those in our care are patients, not ‘bodies’, they still have loved ones, they still have the right to respectful post-death care and a proper burial or cremation, and that is the care we provide for them. They still matter as much as they did in life as they do after they have died.”

“Patient dignity is important to us, and the care pathway reflects that. There is rightfully a huge amount of governance surrounding caring for the deceased. We always try to maintain their religious backgrounds and ethnic beliefs to make sure we adhere to their cultural customs as much as possible within the law.”

“We work closely with the Bereavement service and Medical Examiners, they will scrutinise the notes, speak to the family, they’ll also speak to the person’s doctors, they’ll look at lots of things before they decide whether or not a medical certificate of the cause of death can be produced, or whether the death needs to be referred to the coroner.”

“Working in the Mortuary you have to be empathetic and resilient, you see people in the various stages of grief, an incredibly vulnerable time.”

“We have a viewing room for those close to the patient to come in and see them. Friends and families will often get quite emotional when it comes to the end of life, therefore it is a safe and supported space in which emotions can freely run high, with people coming to terms with the passing of their loved ones. We want to give them as much space as possible to come to terms with it.”

“In or team, we look for people who’ve got resilience. It’s often easier to teach the clinical skills of an APT than it is to teach resilience. We make sure evidence of it is there right the way from recruitment. So, we’re not necessarily recruiting people based on their previous experience, but rather by how well they might fare in our environment.”

“I fell into becoming an APT almost completely accidentally. I was about to go to university to study architecture and I was doing security work as a security consultant. I found myself with an interest in the in the role when I got friendly with another Mortuary manager at another hospital. I was offered the opportunity to watch a post-mortem examination, I didn’t deal with it very well at the time. But after we repeated the process a few times, it just clicked and I thought, I can do this.”

“The team always comes together when we need to, there is a such a strong sense of friendship between us because of the serious and often highly emotional demands of the role. We do offer Mortuary tours for staff to have the opportunity to come and have a look around. We also do postmortem observation for the ambulance, fire, and police crews.”