Bereaved families are facing delays in funeral services of more than three weeks, after a mechanical breakdown at Shrewsbury’s Emstrey Crematorium has forced the facility to operate at half the usual capacity.

Mortuaries at Telford and Shrewsbury hospitals are now said to be at full capacity and have been required to rent in additional cold storage facilities for bodies awaiting cremation.

Crematorium owners Dignity say the issue is the result of underinvestment in facilities at Emstrey prior to the firm acquiring the site in 2016, and a programme of works to upgrade the facility has been brought forward after old equipment suffered a ‘serious breakdown’.

The issue is being exacerbated by urgent repair work being undertaken at nearby Telford crematorium, which is also owned by Dignity.

“It’s not nice telling people they have to wait so long,” said Welshpool funeral director Geraint Peate.

“It’s already a difficult time for people and this just adds to it. The problem is putting additional strain on Telford where there’s also a backlog now, I could pick up the phone to Aberystwyth and get something for next week but obviously people don’t want to go so far.”

Montgomeryshire MP Glyn Davies said he hoped all parties could work together to resolve the problem, and that he would be raising it as a matter of urgency when he spoke to counterparts in Shropshire this week.

“Obviously this is a hugely difficult issue that affects families at a very tough time and we need the earliest possible resolution,” he said.

A meeting has been scheduled this week between Dignity and representatives from Shropshire Council’s public health to discuss the issue, which has been ongoing since the Christmas period.

Professor Rod Thomson, Shropshire Council’s director of public health, said the local authority was “continuing to monitor the situation”, but that higher demand on mortuary services is not unusual at this time of year.

“With the slightly higher number of deaths due to influenza, and the impact on funeral services due to the reduced opening hours over the festive season, pressure of on mortuary capacity and funeral director services are also higher.

“We continue to monitor the situation and we are working closely with Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Services to help it and local funeral services manage this demand,” he said.

A statement from Edwin Borman, medical director at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), said: “The trust has arranged for additional mortuary space capacity for Telford, that is already in place. For Shrewsbury, that will be arriving shortly.”