A MOBILE mortuary has been introduced at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

The 'Flexmort' portable mortuary will only be used if the hospital's main mortuary is full, and is intended to ensure deceased patients receive dignified treatment on site rather than having to be transferred to neighbouring facilities.

The Reverend David Flowers, the hospital's lead chaplain, said the inspiration behind the purchase was a 32 per cent rise in the number of deaths across England and Wales during a fortnight in February last year, resulting from a cold snap and a virulent strain of flu.

"During this time, our trust identified mortuary capacity as a potential future problem and requested funds for a portable mortuary to increase capacity before any issues could arise," he said.

"Dorset and its surrounding areas house a large elderly population and numbers rise year on year, so it follows that our trust supports a high number of elderly patients.

"During times of extremely cold weather the elderly are particularly vulnerable and hospitals across the UK are likely to see a rise in the number of deaths in elderly patients."

He added: "The mobile mortuary may also be used in times of local major incidents, though we hope such an occasion would never arise."

The equipment was funded by the hospital's League of Friends, which raised the £16,000 required through a mixture of Christmas fairs, legacies and donations at the charity's shop in the hospital atrium.

The mobile structure can be put up in less than an hour and is made up of lightweight, durable metal bars with a cooling covering.

It is then hooked up to a power supply in order to generate cold air in the enclosed space.

"We are absolutely delighted with this impressive piece of kit," added Mr Flowers.

"The mobile mortuary will allow our mortuary technician to provide the same level of dignified care we provide for our deceased patients housed in the main mortuary."

The trust also plans to make the equipment available to other hospitals to use should they face capacity issues.