While an NHS chief confirmed that a body had been left for eight hours last Wednesday because of the staffing problems, the 53-year-old widow from Accrington, who did not want to be named, said bosses had promised her that no family would have to go through the same ordeal after she lost her husband, aged 52, in 2002.
She said: 'When I saw the headline in the Telegraph I thought I had read it wrong. I just couldn't believe something they told me was a one-off and would never happen again has become hospital policy.'
Her husband had died from heart problems in March 2002. However when funeral directors came to collect the body following the weekend they found that it had not been placed in a refrigerator. The undertaker who dealt with the body recalled that the body was so badly decomposed it could not be placed in an open coffin.
The widow said: 'I was absolutely livid. I had been deprived of my opportunity to say my last goodbye because the body was in such a bad state of decomposition.'
Enquiries have revealed that a letter was sent last month to porters which said they should ask nurses who request a body to be moved whether 'it can wait until morning staff come on duty'. Two porters are needed to move a body. According to the letter, from domestic and portering manager Karen Goss the instruction was because there was 'now not the funds or the staff to bring someone in on overtime to cover.'
Although hospital bosses originally stated that they were not aware of any bodies being left following the instruction they confirmed yesterday that one body had been left overnight last week for eight hours.
Following information presented by The Lancashire Telegraph, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust confirmed a body had been left from 11pm last Wednesday to 7am on Thursday.
The Trust's head of clinical care and governance, Lynn Wissett, said: 'We did find evidence that there had been an unreasonable delay in transferring the patient from the ward to the hospital mortuary. The investigation also suggested that this delay was due in part to the fact that only one porter was on duty at Queen's Park Hospital that night. Although contingency arrangements were in place to cope with just this eventuality they were not implemented.'