Hospitals in UK are running out of body bags, claim funeral directors

Hospitals in Britain are running out of body bags and wrapping coronavirus victims in bed sheets, claim funeral directors

  • Funeral directors are concerned for the safety of their staff collecting corpses
  • The UK has now seen 9,937 deaths after a rise of 979 on Saturday
  • Shortages are worst in London, but the problem is spreading across the country
  • Guidance from PHE last month said body bags are not required to move bodies 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Hospitals across Britain are running out of body bags and instead wrapping dead coronavirus victims in sheets, it was claimed last night.

Funeral directors are concerned for the safety of staff collecting corpses from overflowing mortuaries, and hospital porters also fear infection with their union saying they have been left ‘distressed and anxious’ after moving deceased patients.

One undertaker filmed himself beside a man wrapped in a sheet who died at a hospital in North London after contracting Covid-19. A yellow sticker on the white plastic warned: ‘Health Hazard.’ Gesturing towards the body, he said: ‘All he came in was this…no bag…this is not a joke. I go to several hospitals, I have the facts and figures that the NHS has run out of body bags.’

Hospitals across the UK are being forced to wrap dead bodies in sheets as they run out of body bags, it has been claimed

The Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), which represents the funeral industry, criticised what it claimed was conflicting advice from Public Health England (PHE). Guidance from PHE last month said body bags are not required to move deceased victims because the virus rapidly degrades after death.

But in a letter to PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie, DMAG wrote that previous PHE statements had warned the virus could be ‘present for up to 48-72 hours and even longer in refrigerated conditions’.

On April 11, the UK’s death toll resulting from the coronavirus rose by 979, bringing the country’s total to 9,937

While shortages appear more severe in London, they have spread across the UK. Jonathan Robinson, of Joseph C Roberts independent funeral directors in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, said: ‘The shortage of body bags is widespread. We are aware that a major supplier in the UK has run out of stock.’

Diary entries kept by a London-based funeral director this month paint a bleak picture of what he calls a ‘system on the edge’. Writing on April 4, he said: ‘North Middlesex Hospital told me it had run out of body bags after they were ordered to hand them over to the new ExCel Nightingale Hospital … they have been told to wrap the bodies in two sheets.’

A doctor stands at the entrance to London’s ExCeL centre, which has been transformed into NHS Nightingale hospital. The hospital has 4,000 beds for coronavirus patients, and reportedly had body bags sent from other hospitals which are now running low

Two days later, the entry reads: ‘I’ve just picked up from Barnet General, they have no body bags whatsoever. Bodies are in a single-sheet, no plastic, nothing.’

On Friday, the entry reads: ‘I was at The Royal Free Hospital this afternoon, no body bags. Mortuary full … It’s never ending.’

Last night, PHE said: ‘The guidance regarding residual infection risk are standard and apply to the handling of the deceased where an infectious illness has been present and are the basis for everyday standard mortuary practice.’ 

The UK has now seen 78,991 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and 9,875 people dead after testing positive for Covid-19

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