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Hospital mortuary services need regular inspection

Recent stories about improper storage of bodies and organs in hospital mortuaries have generated public interest in both pathology and mortuary services.

A study in this weeks BMJ suggests that regular audits are essential for a mortuary to run effectively and safely and to gain public confidence.

Researchers at the Walsall Hospitals NHS Trust audited the documents accompanying all 7,761 deceased patients in the hospital during 1996-2000. Bodies were received from funeral directors and ambulance crews as well as hospital wards.

They checked wrist bands, labels, and identification papers against the patients registration details for any discrepancies. They also checked accuracy of recording the presence of a pacemaker and property for each body. Bodies for which there was one or more discrepancy were classified as failed cases.

In 1996-7, the failure rate for bodies from all sources was 10%. This figure fell in the study period to 3% in 1999-2000.

Although some of the discrepancies were arguably less important, such as errors in unit number or address, a substantial proportion could have had serious consequences, say the authors. These include misidentification of the body (body received in the mortuary with the wrong name) or property and non-identification of the pacemakers.

The error rate fell during our study, probably because staff were regularly alerted to errors as part of the audit, say the authors. We therefore believe that such audits are essential to mortuary to run effectively and safely and to gain public confidence.


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Contact: Emma Wilkinson
ewilkinson@bmj.com
44-207-383-6529
BMJ-British Medical Journal
25-Apr-2002


Page: 1

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