Body bags could be in danger of running out as mortuary suppliers warn they have no stocks left and health workers claim they have are forced to wrap dead coronavirus victims in sheets.
The NHS maintains it has adequate supplies of body bags, despite mortuary suppliers across the country being unable to source anymore stock from overseas for weeks.
Last monday, Sally Goodright, a nurse at West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth, West London, wrote on Facebook, in a post later removed: ‘We ran out of body bags but still the dead were arriving from the wards.’
Ms Goodright added that all of the dead were still infectious so they needed to wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) for hours despite it being ‘hot and sweaty’.
Another worker at Watford General Hospital told BBC News that bed sheets were being used to wrap the dead.
GMB Union said porters had been asked to transport the dead wrapped in sheets.
Public Health England told the publication that the use of body bags was for ‘practical reasons’ and that there was no specific reason to use them for coronavirus victims as the covid-19 virus degraded quickly after its victim had died.
Sally Goodright said on Facebook last week that staff at West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth, West London, are ‘so overwhelmed with deaths that they can’t cope’
The main supplier of body bags to the NHS, Barber Medical, told the BBC that they were having a ‘real problem’ sourcing the zipped body bags and had resorted to producing more ‘body pouch bags’ made of thin polythene bags.
Another major supplier also told the publication they were unable to get any more stock of body bags for over six weeks due to stockpiling – it was unable to make its own bags after being unable to get hold of materials.
They added that they had heard from NHS trusts and funeral directors ‘horrified’ by the official advice not to use them, from Public Health England.
In a Facebook post, Ms Goodright also urged people to stay at home and criticised those she saw on her journey home who were setting up badminton nets and playing football
Funeral directors have also struggled to get hold of personal protective equipment.
A spokesman for Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust did not deny that they were using sheets to wrap bodies, claiming that they had zipper body bags in stock but they weren’t necessary as ‘placing a cloth or mask over the mouth of the deceased when moving them can help to prevent the release of aerosols.’
BBC News reported that thousands of body bags are currently being held as stock by emergency services, and will be made available to hospitals and funeral directors.