Published: 00:01, 30 October 2017
A hospital trust may bring in a mobile morgue to deal with an increase in the number of deaths it expects this winter.
Plans published by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) reveal it is allocating space to store an extra 100 bodies, both in the hospitals and by using other organisations like funeral directors.
The most recent government data on excess winter deaths give provisional figures for December 2015 to March 2016 of 110 deaths in Maidstone borough, 90 in Tunbridge Wells and 30 in Tonbridge and Malling – rates higher than other months throughout the year.
The measure is one of many contingency actions included every year in plans aimed at dealing with the huge demands in Kent over the winter.
Currently emergency admissions are at an all-time high at 900-950 per week. Bosses fear this could rise to more than 1,000, making it increasingly likely it will run out of beds.
To prevent this, the trust is attempting to streamline services to improve patient flow, run a seven-day pharmacy service, and increase the number of staff receiving flu jabs.
If necessary, routine operations such as ear nose and throat procedures and some forms of bone and joint surgery could be moved from Tunbridge Wells to Maidstone for two months to free up beds for seriously ill patients.
Some drivers will also receive training in using 4x4 cars to cope with freezing temperatures expected to hit after Christmas.
It has not yet been assessed how much these measures will cost, though they are expected to exceed the £800,000 offered by West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group’s winter
Dr Peter Maskell, medical director, said: “Our winter plan provides a number of options for managing our clinical services safely and effectively for our patients.”
A spokesman added: “The plan includes the potential to increase mortuary capacity should this be necessary. This is included in our winter plan every year.”