In the current circumstances, accessing facilities to undertake routine tasks may be difficult. However, HTA-licensed establishments must make sure that they have arrangements in place to maintain the dignity of the deceased.
We are also aware that anatomy facilities may be approached to assist with the storage of bodies as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Please refer to our guidance on emergency mortuary facilities.
With facility closures, anatomy establishments need to consider how to deal with enquiries and the information they need to provide.
Where body donations have been suspended, it is advisable to let the families of potential donors know that they will need to make other arrangements rather than a donation at this time.
Use of images in medical training
With the closure of training facilities, other resources are being used to substitute face-to-face training.
We understand that the use of images in education is important, and while the making and displaying of images (including photographs, films and electronic images) fall outside of the scope of the HT Act, we expect establishments to take care not to compromise the dignity of the deceased, and to put systems in place to prevent the inappropriate use of images.
Please see further information in our guidelines on filming or photographing of bodies or body parts that have been donated to medical schools.
All establishments licensed by the HTA are required to have an internal system for reporting adverse events and we would ask that you consider how best to handle relevant adverse events during the COVID-19 outbreak. Although there is currently no requirement for establishments in the Anatomy sector to report adverse incidents to the HTA, if a DI has concerns about an event or incident, they are advised to contact us.
Removal of samples from the deceased to test for COVID-19
Removal of relevant material from the deceased for a scheduled purpose must take place on HTA-licensed premises and with appropriate consent or authority.
Relevant material is defined by the Human Tissue Act 2004 (HT Act). The fundamental concept of relevant material is that if a sample contains cells that come from a human body, then the sample should be classified as relevant material.
Examples of relevant material include swabs that contain human cells and blood samples. There is more information on this in the HTA’s List of materials considered to be ‘relevant material’ under the Human Tissue Act 2004.
Please contact us for advice if you are uncertain about the licensing and consent requirements for removing samples from the deceased to test for coronavirus (COVID-19).
The following may be useful to professionals working in the Anatomy sector.
- Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology - COVID-19 resources hub
- Royal College of Pathologists - COVID-19 resources hub
- Joint guidance from Royal College of Pathologists, Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology and Public Health England – Guidance for care of deceased during Covid-19 pandemic (19 March 2020)
- Health and Safety Executive – Managing infection risks when handling the deceased (2018)
- HTA FAQs – Fresh Frozen Material