Patient breaks into mortuary at Southmead Hospital

Security has been beefed up at Southmead Hospital’s mortuary after a patient broke in through a locked door.

North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) says no cold storage units or human remains were accessed in what has been classed as a ‘serious security breach’.

An investigation was launched by the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), a Department of Health and Social Care quango, and has been closed after the trust, which runs the hospital, took steps to prevent a repeat.

NBT said the patient was arrested following the incident in February.

A trust spokesperson said: “An incident occurred when an NHS patient with complex care needs was able to temporarily gain entry to areas within the mortuary facility after forcing doors that were locked.

“Through detailed CCTV monitoring we can confirm that at no point were any refrigerated or frozen storage units holding human tissue breached and, as such, we can give an absolute assurance that no remains were accessed at any time.

“The individual was arrested shortly after gaining entry.

“In response we have significantly increased both the strength and number of locked doors that protect the mortuary and have put in place additional measures to ensure each area of the mortuary can be secured independently of any other – so a breach in one will not affect another.

“Finally, we have introduced enhanced measures to increase the speed at which our on-site security teams are able to respond to alerts in or near the mortuary.”

The incident was revealed to the NBT board on Thursday, May 30.

Chief executive Maria Kane’s report to the meeting said: “The HTA has updated the trust following its review of the private mortuary access by a patient in February.

“The incident has been classified as a HTA Reportable Incident and categorised as a serious security breach.

“The HTA has acknowledged the evidence submitted and all of the corrective actions and mitigations that have taken place and has now closed the incident.”

Giving a verbal update to the board, Ms Kane said: “We are noting this publicly that the Human Tissue Authority (has carried out a) review of a mortuary incident, they have acknowledged our evidence and mitigating actions and have now decided that they are now happy to close the incident.

“But there has been learning from that, clearly, and we will continue to monitor that and have put in place additional contract expectations from our providers.”

An HTA spokesperson said a report would be published in its next quarterly update of closed reportable incidents next month.