The NHS was set up to help save lives, and over the past 70 years numerous people have benefited. But no matter how good a service it provides, some deaths are still inevitable.

Yet the subject of dying remains taboo. Perhaps it is human nature, out of fear or because it is so hard to face the thought of losing a loved one, to simply avoid thinking or talking about it.

But Alex Bowser is determined to change that.

The Cumbrian mortuary worker works with dead people every day - and treats them just as she would if they were alive.

She chats to her patients, brushes their hair and helps them to look their best. To her, the mortuary is no different to any other ward and her patients deserve the same level of care and respect.

Alex, an anatomical pathology technologist at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, is keen for people to know more about her work in the hope it will help to change people's perceptions of mortuaries.

"My role, fundamentally, is all to do with patient care after someone has passed away. People do not get to see our side of care. It's very much hidden from the public eye.

"In a way that's a shame because our role here is just as important as it is on the wards," she said.

"To me, we are still a ward. We still provide care and dignity."

Mortuary staff also carry out investigations, where needed, to find out how a patient has died.

But she said it is not the harsh, clinical atmosphere many will have seen in the movies or on TV dramas.

"Television has unfortunately given people a stereotypical idea of what a mortuary and postmortem is about, but it couldn't be further from the truth," said Alex.

She also prides herself in ensuring that afterwards, a patient looks like their relatives would want them to.

"We make them look like they've had a bath, got dressed and fallen asleep. Everything we do is as sensitive and discreet as possible. It's subtle," she said.

"I feel that it's quite an honour and a privilege to work with these patients, to make them look peaceful and retain that dignity. We aim to make a patient look better after a postmortem than they did before.

"It's a shame people don't really know more about our work. It would reassure them to know how much care that we take."

Alex said that working in the mortuary was a deliberate move.

"It's something I've always wanted to do, since I was about 11. I remember watching the first live postmortem on TV. It was fascinating.

"As I got older I tried to get as much experience as I could, doing funeral work and volunteering in a mortuary," she said.

"I really enjoy the scientific part, but also providing care for our patients. Every single patient gets the same level of care.

"People might think we are a bit mad, but to me I want to go to bed at night knowing I've done everything I can for that patient. If it was my loved one, my mum or my granddad, that's how I'd want them to be treated. That's how I look at it."

Alex is keen to talk about her work as part of the NHS 70 celebrations to raise awareness of this hidden part of the hospital.

She hopes it may help to change opinions, and make it easier for families whose loved ones she cares for.

"Because of the stereotypes, mortuaries aren't really seen as nice places and I find that quite sad. It is a nice place. I love working here, with these patients. I believe that our patients should still get the same levels of dignity and respect as those on the other wards.

"If people do come to see them and say they look calm and peaceful, I get a real sense of achievement. I remember one woman who said I'd made her husband look 10 years younger. That was lovely. I really want it to be as positive for people as it can be, not a negative experience.

"It's such a testing time for loved ones. Time and time again I speak to people who have lost loved ones, and they remember every tiny detail. That's why I want to help make it the best it possibly can be. That person is going to remember it for the rest of their lives.

"Sometimes relatives see them afterwards, but not often. A lot of the time nobody ever sees your work as we release patients as quickly as possible to the funeral directors.

"That doesn't affect how well I look after them. "I treat everyone the same. There are no exceptional circumstances."

She also wants people to be more open about death, and talk to relatives about their wishes when they die.

"I find it quite shocking. I see some families that are open about it, but a lot aren't. I wish we weren't like that as a society. It happens to everyone at some point. It's the one thing that's guaranteed in life.

"I want to see people talking more openly about it, and talking about their wishes. That makes it much easier for your family after you have passed away, otherwise they don't know if it's what you would have wanted," she said.

"My aim is to get people talking about it. We should be totally open. People should know what happens when someone passes away, and how well their loved ones are treated."

Alex, who works as part of a small team, said she really enjoys her job, but it can be emotional at times.

"It's a sad thing. Even if your patient has lived a good life, they are still someone's relative and they will still be missed. When you see people cry it still pulls at your heart," she added.