Training to care for the dead

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DOZENS of students are training to become mortuary staff.

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust became the first national training centre to provide the The Royal Society of Public Health Level 3 Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology.

The UK is one of very few countries where it is essential to have qualified staff working in mortuaries.

The course has now attracted another group of more than 20 students. Anatomical pathology technologists work in both NHS and public mortuaries.

Mortuary and bereavement service manager Michelle Lancaster, who runs the course, said the students get an academically recognised qualification which allows them to apply to complete the level 4 diploma in APT all the way through to a level 6 BSc Hons degree.

That’s something mortuary staff have never been able to do before.

Michelle added: “The UK is one of very few countries where it is essential to have qualified staff working in mortuaries. Our dedicated training programme has already attracted international candidates.”

The new qualification has five theory modules and five practical modules which the students have to pass.

The course teaches students about:

•Helping the pathologist during post-mortem examination.

•Making sure the reconstruction of the deceased is to an extremely high standard so that relatives and friends can view the body.

•Providing emotional and practical support to the bereaved.

•Ensuring the deceased are provided dignity and care.

•Ensuring some of the legal processes connected to a death go smoothly.

•Maintaining compliance and working with regulatory bodies such as the Human Tissue Authority

Michelle added: “We have used the expertise of people from both within the Trust and externally to make sure that programme lectures and events give the students the best learning experience and training possible.

“We are constantly working hard at the trust to improve our mortuary services.”

She said care given at the end of life had to be right for the families “at what can be a traumatic and emotional time for them and their relatives, so they are able to go away with closure and good memories of their loved ones”.

“The work that all mortuary teams do is vital for families of those who have sadly died. That’s why we need to make sure that the care we provide is the best it possibly can be.

“I am really pleased that this programme has been so successful and will continue to be for the future.”