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Final goodbyes to Caroline Jephcott, 36, ruined by 'disgusting' mortuary at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

By The Citizen  |  Posted: January 09, 2014

  • Caroline Jephcott, 36, died on Christmas Day

  • with sympathy: Dr Kate Edgar was upset by the conditions in the temporary mortuary at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital when she went to see her sister Caroline Jephcott

  • with sympathy: Dr Kate Edgar was upset by the conditions in the temporary mortuary at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital when she went to see her sister Caroline Jephcott

Comments (6)

BROKEN furniture and rubbish waiting to be dumped greeted grieving parents as they visited Gloucestershire Royal Hospital to see their daughter for the last time.

Caroline Jephcott, 36, had suffered from juvenile chronic arthritis since she was two and had complications during her recovery from a joint operation in London.

She died suddenly on Christmas Day, leaving behind husband Mark and their three-year-old son Christopher.

Caroline was a graduate psychologist and a well-known blogger about parenting as a disabled person.

As the devastated family visited the viewing room for their final goodbyes, they said they were shocked to find shabby conditions, no seating except for chairs piled up ready for the skip.

They were told by a mortuary assistant the area was mid-way through a refurbishment, and taking longer to finish than planned.

Caroline's sister Dr Kate Edgar, from Abbeymead, is heavily pregnant and said it added to the trauma of losing a loved one on Christmas Day.

"This has been devastating," she said. "The set up for people to view their loved ones is disgusting. We were taken into a horrid outbuilding and greeted by a pile of broken chairs and furniture awaiting disposal.

"We were then taken to a grim, unkempt corridor with no chairs, pictures, or anything remotely welcoming. We had to stand in this corridor while taking turns to see my sister.

"My parents were sobbing, stood up in this corridor. I spoke to the mortuary assistant about the facilities who acknowledged the circumstances were not good enough.

"My immediate thought was I didn't want anyone else in Gloucestershire to have to go through this same, traumatic experience as us. I'm sure they will have had to. I work for the NHS, I just can't understand why someone hasn't gone to the smallest bit of effort and got a few comfy chairs in the corridor, given it a quick lick of paint and put a picture up. It would take a day's worth of effort."

Speaking about her much-loved sister, she said: "Caroline's recovery seemed to go well and she came back to Gloucestershire before Christmas and suddenly became very unwell.Without exception, everyone who knew Caroline would describe her as being an outstandingly positive and cheerful person.

"She chose to stay at home to bring up Christopher and she was an extremely loving, enthusiastic and giving mother.

"She was a fabulous sister – warm, funny, generous and kind. Always smiling, chatting and in good humour.

"Her untimely death has been a terrible shock to us all and she'll be deeply missed by her family and friends. It was incredibly sad to have to tell her son his mum had died."

Building work on the chapels and mortuaries at both Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal hospitals has since finished. Work is now being done to improve the corridors. Donations have been made from the Organ Donation Committee, as well as Sands (stillbirth and neonatal death) charity and Pied Piper to pay for new furniture, paintings and other soft furnishings.

Mortuary manager Jenny Webster said: "I would like to apologise unreservedly for any distress caused by the temporary arrangements. The Christmas holidays and recent inclement weather have meant some work has been taken longer than we would have liked and the furniture order has been delayed. As part of our plans to improve this area we are going to provide some seating and paintings to make the area less austere."

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6 comments

  • SandraPee  |  January 09 2014, 10:55AM

    There's no excuse , this should never have happened . Bereaved people are at their lowest, and in a state of shock and to experience sloppiness at such a time is inexcusable.

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  • fbr65  |  January 09 2014, 10:41AM

    Sorry, I should have been clearer: what I meant was that it would not have cost any money for someone to have shifted the old furniture out of the way and found some spare chairs from another part of the hospital for the family to sit down (admittedly, a bunch of flowers would have cost money). More generally, it is a shame that the NHS has to rely on charitable donations in order to make these sorts of improvements, but that is another story.

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  • Apothegm_  |  January 09 2014, 10:08AM

    It was a considerable shock to me to find from this article that Caroline had died so suddenly. Having been one of her colleagues when she used to volunteer at a Gloucester charity some years ago, I can only echo her sister's view of her as being very positive, perceptive, funny and cheerful in spite of her arthritis. She brightened the lives of those who met her and her assistance dog. Her death is so very sad.

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  • Mudbox  |  January 09 2014, 9:42AM

    fbr65 ; why doesn't this seem like a lack of cash issue for the NHS? I'm sure there are lot of things about the NHS that could be characterised as a lack of empathy, but if someone if going to do up places like this, that will probably cost someone some money; the NHS if it is someone working at the hospital.

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  • gloshospitals  |  January 09 2014, 9:16AM

    The building work on the chapels and mortuaries at both Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal Hospitals is now complete and we are now working on the entrance corridor. The items that will make the environment more comfortable such as furniture, paintings and other soft furnishings will soon be installed following donations from our Organ Donation Committee, the charities SANDs and Pied Piper and through other private donations. We acknowledge that the route to the mortuary is not as welcoming as we would like and as part of our plans to improve this area ,we are going to provide some seating, and paintings to make the area less austere. We are really sorry that Dr Edgar and her family had such a negative experience but we would like to reassure them that that once the work is completed that the area will be much improved for all those who use these facilities.

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  • fbr65  |  January 09 2014, 9:07AM

    This doesn't seem to be about a lack of cash resources at the NHS - rather, this story suggests a shocking lack of empathy and care on the part of the relevant people working at the NHS. It would have been an inexpensive and quick job to have shifted the rubbish out of the way and perhaps included a bunch of flowers and the like during the refurbishment works. One can only assume that the people responsible for this have never suffered the trauma of having to say goodbye to a loved one. Well done on highlighting this story and, if nothing else, it might mean that another family doesn't have to experience the same distress at such a difficult time.

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