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."