NHS and care home Covid-19 deaths to be reported to Crown

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC tells MSPs that fatal accident inquiries will be held 'where the law requires'.

NHS and care home deaths must be reported to the Crown Office.
NHS and care home deaths must be reported to the Crown Office.

Coronavirus-related deaths of NHS workers and care home residents and staff will now need to be reported to the Crown Office, Scotland’s Lord Advocate has said.

James Wolffe QC told MSPs that fatal accident inquiries (FAIs) will be held into Covid-19 deaths “where the law requires”.

The requirement to report coronavirus deaths to the Crown Office was relaxed earlier in the pandemic in order to reduce the burden on the medical profession.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, Scotland’s most senior law officer said his officials have been reviewing the situation and concluded two categories of deaths should be reported.

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These are coronavirus-related deaths where the deceased contracted the disease at work, including NHS, emergency service, transport and care home staff.

Care home residents are the second category, he said.

Mr Wolffe said the deaths would be entered into the Crown Office’s system of death investigation, though the nature of the inquiry will depend on the individual case.

He told MSPs: “In some cases, the investigation required may be quite limited. In other cases, it may be more extensive and that will depend on the particular circumstances.

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“In that regard, it would be premature for me to speculate at this stage whether a fatal accident inquiry into any particular death, or categories of deaths, from Covid-19 would or would not be appropriate.”

An FAI is an investigation into the circumstances of a death in Scotland, usually held in public at a sheriff court. Coroners’ inquests are a similar process in England and Wales.

Mr Wolffe continued: “I’m confident that these arrangements will help to make sure that in due course we will as a society better understand the circumstances of these deaths.

“Every one of these deaths is an individual tragedy which calls for, from each one of us, profound sorrow, compassion and respect.”

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