Mortuary space under pressure as funeral backlog builds up

Funeral directors in Glasgow are facing a backlog and are pressed for mortuary space amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the head of a family firm has said.

Services are unable to take place until deaths have been registered and face-to-face appointments at registry offices are unavailable following coronavirus guidance.

Dom Maguire, head of Anderson Maguire funeral directors in Glasgow, said funerals are being “held in limbo” and he thinks at least 200 families are affected.

He said changes to make death registrations easier are part of Westminster’s coronavirus emergency powers legislation but he does not expect these to take effect until the weekend at the earliest.

Mr Maguire told the PA news agency: “This means from Friday last right through to this weekend every death that has occurred no arrangements can be made for these funerals.

“Funeral directors are now looking at a serious backlog of funerals.

“I know a number of funeral directors who have ordinarily adequate mortuary space who are under pressure.

“We have had to use reserve refrigeration space.”

Coffin storage at funeral home
Coffin storage at funeral home

A former president of the UK Association of Funeral Directors, Mr Maguire was involved in pandemic contingency planning during the bird flu and Sars outbreaks and has already provided services for coronavirus victims.

He said: “Nothing equates to what the anticipated and forecast situation is going to be going forward.

“While we hope for the best we have got to plan for the worst.”

Coffin manufacturers are working “24/7” in advance of anticipated increase in the number of deaths, he added.

Among the changes planned at the 14 funeral homes Mr Maguire operates across Glasgow is video conferencing for appointments with bereaved families.

Staff have also been issued with protective equipment.

He said: “For funeral directors every death is important, whether it is from Covid-19 or otherwise.

“In so far as it is possible, funeral directors are going to attempt to give the best service that they can under what are going to be extremely difficult circumstances.”

Glasgow City Council has advised people to monitor its website for death registration updates, saying in a statement: “Following Government advice Registrars are now preparing for remote registration for deaths. Face to face appointments are currently not available.”