Guidance on Body Storage

The HTA licensing standards on governance and quality systems and premises, facilities and equipment reinforce that the dignity of the deceased is essential and maintained. 

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GQ1(c):Procedures on body storage prevent practices that disregard the dignity of the deceased.

PFE1(d): The premises are secure (for example there is controlled access to the body storage area(s) and PM room and the use of CCTV to monitor access).

PFE2(c): Storage for long-term storage of bodies and bariatric bodies is sufficient to meet needs. 

Guidance for PFE2(c) states: 

"…..bodies should be moved into frozen storage after 30 days in refrigerated storage ……, or before, depending on the condition of the body. "

HTA-licensed establishments in the PM sector are expected to ensure that bodies are stored in appropriate conditions and are fully shrouded, including the covering of heads and feet. Bodies and tissue should be stored at temperatures that will preserve their condition. It is a requirement for establishments to have sufficient freezer storage facilities for bodies, including bariatric bodies, to meet their needs. If long-term storage facilities are not available, alternative arrangements should be in place.  

Staff should be familiar with the procedures to initiate transfer of bodies to long-term storage when required. Systems should be in place to alert staff to the need to transfer bodies into long-term storage. All procedures for initiating, transferring and releasing bodies from long-term storage should be documented and any deviations recorded. 

Body storage areas should be secure and should not be accessible by visitors or unauthorised staff. Licensable activities, such as post-mortem examination, should occur in appropriate and secure areas.

  • Check and document the condition of bodies upon arrival to the mortuary.
  • Following admittance, undertake regular condition checks to ensure optimal preservation of bodies whilst in storage. Document dates of condition checks and record actions taken to prevent deterioration.
  • Replace soiled shrouding, and clean bodies where possible (with agreement from the Coroner where required).
  • Consider transfer of bodies showing signs of deterioration to long-term storage following discussions with the Coroner and family, where appropriate. Do not wait until 30 days of storage to initiate these procedures if the condition of the body is deteriorating.
  • Where it is not possible to transfer a body to long-term storage, document the reasons. This is particularly relevant where a body is showing signs of deterioration, or where a body has been in refrigerated storage for longer than 30 days. Conduct regular reviews of such cases, ensuring information is recorded and followed up appropriately.
  • If long-term storage capacity is reduced or not available, consider arrangements to transfer the body to another establishment with appropriate facilities. 
  • Transfer bodies to refrigerated storage that require thawing following long-term storage to prevent any further deterioration. Only use body storage facilities for storing of bodies and not other items such as clinical waste or laboratory reagents. 

  • We understand cold cots are used regularly, particularly in maternity departments. The use of cold cots in maternity departments does not fall under the licensing remit of the HTA, however the HTA does have a role in safeguarding the dignity of the deceased and the integrity of human tissue. Establishments therefore have a responsibility to ensure the dignity of the deceased is maintained at all times and appropriate safeguards should be in place for the use of cold cots. The HTA recommends that specialised cold cots are temperature monitored when in use, subject to regular maintenance and that staff are appropriately trained in how to use the equipment. To determine the appropriate temperature and length of time the cots can be used for, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The HTA advises that establishments develop policies and risk assessments for the use of this equipment if these are not already in place. 

HTA recommendations
Printable version

A printable PDF version of this guidance can be downloaded below.

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