A NEW hospital bereavement suite is set to help families in their darkest hours.

Southend Hospital is refurbishing part of existing pathology annexe building, alongside other alterations, to form the new bereavement suite.

The hospital, in Prittlewell Chase, will also be adding four additional car parking spaces.

There will also be a single storey extension to the existing mortuary building, as part of the project.

The new building will be operating 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

The plans state: “Given the overall size and scale of the proposed development and the location of the proposed extension which is significantly removed from the nearest neighbouring adjourning residents, the development would not result in any material harm to the amenity of the nearby residents in terms of dominance, an overbearing impact, loss of light and outlook, a material sense of enclosure or overlooking and loss of privacy.”

The plans state the proposal was drawn up for a number of reasons including ageing facilities and inadequate capacity during what are described as “peak” times of the year.

Residents have welcomed the plans, saying the NHS is addressing an increasing need.

Rod Greenwell, 77, of Victoria Avenue, Southend said: “It is about time the bereavement services at the hospital were updated. We do have an ageing population in Southend so investment in these kind of services is very important.

“I think it shows dedication from the hospital to continue to improve and invest.

“I think the NHS gets a lot of bad reviews but this shows the needs of the people and residents are being addressed.

Eamon Malone, chief estates and facilities officer at the trust, said: “The mortuary extension is part of a planned development at Southend University Hospital to ensure that we meet the continued demand of the service.

“This would also include the refurbishment of part of the existing pathology annexe building and the formation of a new bereavement suite, helping to enhance and bring all of our end of life services together.

“There are also plans for four additional car park spaces for families using the service.”

Construction is set to begin this year.