A growing problem
23 January 2013
The mortuary department at The Christie Foundation NHS Trust is one of the busiest in the North West and the increasing weight of the general population is creating a range of health and safety issues for the people who work there. The situation has led to a collaboration between mortuary staff and a materials handling specialist to develop a new product to help overcome the problem...
Obesity is an issue rarely out of the headlines but as well as contributing to many early deaths it is creating problems for hospital workers who face the sensitive task of looking after the deceased before their bodies are released for burial or cremation.
"The equipment traditionally used in mortuaries is not designed to cope with weights of more than 30 stone (190kg)," explains Andy Pearson, bereavement services manager at The Christie.
"The refrigerated mortuary shelves used in most hospitals are of a floor to ceiling design and so a lot of lifting is required and there is a real risk to people moving the deceased if the equipment is not up to the job." "What's more the dignity of the deceased is also of great importance to us and we were faced with a real challenge when it came to finding lifting equipment to do this while handling increased weights safely and efficiently.
"Even when a patient passes away, we believe they deserve the same levels of care, respect and dignity." Requiring a specialist solution to these problems, The Christie called upon Wilmat, a UK manufacturer of pedestrian operated materials handling equipment to help. Wilmat has well established links with the healthcare sector as well as private companies such as Caterpillar, BT, BMW and KP Foods and has worked with The Christie for some time.
Andy met up with the company's Chairman, Roger Williams to discuss the development of a solution to the problem.
"Working closely with Andy we adapted existing material handling equipment manufactured at our production facility in Steward Street, Birmingham," explains Roger. "The collaboration has resulted in the development of a mortuary stacker that can lift up to 60 stone (380kg) and can be used by a single operator. The batterypowered stacker has been named the Dignity 60 and also features a power driven push/pull loading system that enables the deceased to be treated with dignity by avoiding the need for them to be manually lifted in and out of the refrigeration units." Other features of the new Dignity 60 include: push button lift/lower control; horn and full direction drive control; powered tray; safety slipping clutch; electronic weigh scale and auto-tare facility.
A prototype model was developed for The Christie and it has proved so successful that the hospital now looks after deceased patients from across the North West.
Continues Andy: "We now accept deceased patients from many other hospitals as they do not have the equipment to deal with them if they are significantly overweight.
"The Dignity 60 has proved extremely reliable and does exactly what its name suggests - retaining the dignity of the deceased while reducing the health and safety risks for people working in the mortuary. It also enables us to move the deceased around the mortuary and in and out of the post mortem room in a single operation.
"What's more, we have also been really pleased by the standard of service offered by Wilmat and their response to our feedback during the development of the Dignity 60. Overall, the company's after sales service has been excellent and we are pleased to have played a part in the development of this excellent product." Added Roger: "We are delighted that the Dignity 60 has met all the requirements of Andy and his team at The Christie and we hope that other hospitals across the UK will soon benefit from the development of this product.
"Recent statistics published by the NHS Information Centre suggest that hospital admissions relating to obesity have risen by 60 per cent in the last year, so this would appear to be a problem that is set to get worse in coming years."