Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Emergency mortuaries

For information about temporary body storage in the event of a pandemic outbreak resulting in mass fatalities please go to guidance on temporary body storage arrangements in a pandemic situation.

The HTA has worked with the Home Office and others to develop a system for the provision of a licence in the event of a mass fatality incident resulting in the need for an emergency temporary mortuary.

The HTA works within the statutory framework imposed by the Human Tissue Act 2004 and the following legal requirements need to be met before we can issue a licence:

  1. we must have received a licence application form
  2. we must be satisfied that the proposed Designated Individual (DI) is a suitable person
  3. we must be satisfied that the proposed Licence Holder (LH) is a suitable person / entity
  4. we must be satisfied that the premises are suitable
  5. the licence and any conditions must be acknowledged in writing by the DI and LH

For information on fees payable for a HTA licence please go to our fees page.

Regional resilience / emergency planning teams - what you should do now

Regional resilience / emergency planning teams should complete a licence application form, providing detailed information to demonstrate that emergency temporary mortuary arrangements comply with the HTA standards. The application need not be submitted to the HTA unless a licence is required (i.e. in the event of a mass fatality incident), but should be subject to regular review to ensure that the evidence prepared and gathered against the HTA standards is up-to-date.

The HTA provides advice and guidance to those involved in emeregency planning, the steps to take and the licensing requirements. This includes:

  1. application guidance for those involved in emergency planning
  2. telephone and email support from the HTA Regulation Directorate

Those involved in emergency planning will need to decide which individual(s) will take on the role of Designated Individual (the person under whose supervision the licensed activity is undertaken).

We are not presciptive about who this person is; however, it should be someone who has an understanding of the Human Tissue Act 2004 (HT Act) and the licensing requirements and who can supervise the operational activities which take place in the emergency mortuary.

How to obtain a licence

After notification of an incident resulting in the implementation of the mass fatality plan, a site inspection team comprising a Head of Regulation and Regulation Manager(s) will join the Mass Fatalities Coordination Group (or Gold Group). The HTA will review the information provided in the licence application and provide direct advice and guidance on the requirements of the Human Tissue Act and compliance with the HTA standards. The intention is to issue the relevant licences at this meeting (and therefore within the first few hours of the incident occurring) prior to the facility becoming operational for post mortem activity, but without delaying non-invasive identification. Only where there is evidence of poor or non-compliance with the standards will the HTA conduct a visual inspection.

Actions to take now

  1. Complete the HTA application form for emergency mortuaries as part of your local mass fatality planning activities, including as much detail as possible against each of the standards (the examples of evidence of compliance given against each standard will help)
  2. Refer to the guidance for completing an application form for emergency mortuaries when completing the licence application. This guidance document includes a flow diagram setting out the HTA licensing procedure and can be used to inform your mass fatality plans.
  3. Read the HTA's position statement on licensing of emergency mortuaries

Please do not submit application form to the HTA until a licence for an emergency temporary mortuary is required.

The application form should be reviewed annually to incorporate any changes that may be made.

Key points of contact

The HTA must be contacted at the first opportunity following a mass fatality incident; local plans should identify whose responsibility it is to contact the HTA and within what timeframe. The HTA will arrange to join the mass fatality coordination team meeting. During this meeting, the HTA will provide guidance on the role of the Designated Individual and the Licence Holder, as well as on the HTA standards. The HTA will review the completed compliance report and may wish to view the facilities.  It is imperative that the compliance report is completed, and kept under regular review, before this meeting in order that it is readily available. This will assist the issuing of the licence within hours of the incident. Problems relating to the completion of the compliance report may delay this process.

For general licensing enquiries please call 020 7269 1900

In an emergency, during normal office hours, please call the Regulation Team on 020 7269 1900.

Updated April 2017


Last updated on: 26 Jun 2019