Coronavirus: FAI call into deaths of NHS and care workers



Care worker in mask and glovesImage copyright
Getty Images

A health union has called for the deaths of any NHS or care worker from coronavirus to be investigated by a fatal accident inquiry (FAI).

An FAI is automatic when there has been a death at work but the GMB says they should take place when a worker may have died as a result of their job.

A total of 69 NHS and 15 social care staff across the UK have died from Covid-19.

No separate figures are available for Scotland.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said there was still a requirement to report deaths that would be subject to a mandatory FAI and that the Lord Advocate “has the ability to instruct discretionary FAI in for sudden, suspicious, accidental or unexplained deaths in circumstances he considers to have given rise to significant public concern.”

Gary Smith, secretary of GMB Scotland, which represents workers in both sectors, said the deaths of health and social care workers “must be properly and independently examined in full”.

“An FAI is automatic in cases where a worker is killed at work but it should also be essential when a worker may have died as a result of their work,” he said.

“Care workers should have been able to rely on the best possible protection from the state and from their employers but we know there was a period of weeks where PPE was not fully available and even now, weeks into lockdown, the testing regime is inadequate.”

‘Proper records’

He said FAIs were vital to establish the facts and circumstances of each death and to highlight any avoidable risks the workers were subject to.

“Only by learning the lessons can we keep other workers safe now and in the future,” he said. “It is also vital that proper records are kept now of how decisions were arrived at, and where concerns were raised.”

Where are Scotland’s Covid-19 deaths?

A spokeswoman for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said it had issued guidance to the medical profession outlining that Covid-19 or presumed Covid-19 deaths did not all need to be reported to the procurator fiscal.

“This temporary measure will free up vital time and resources for the health service and help meet the urgent need within the NHS,” she said.

“The requirement to report deaths that would be subject to mandatory FAI remains, and the Lord Advocate has the ability to instruct discretionary FAI in for sudden, suspicious, accidental or unexplained deaths in circumstances he considers to have given rise to significant public concern.”

She said that decisions on whether to hold an FAI would be taken after consideration of the circumstances.

‘Effective PPE’

Similar calls have been made for coroner’s inquests to be carried out in England.

Dr Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, said it was “impossible not to feel let down by political and healthcare leaders who, while ‘sloganning’, clapping for, and praising the NHS, have so evidently failed to protect those who work within it”.

Separately, Prof John Robertson, of Nottingham University, wrote: “As this pandemic unfolds and we witness the deaths of our fellow healthcare professionals during active service and under controversial occupational conditions, there arises the inevitable question of whether the coroner should be involved?”

In this week’s journal, Dr Godlee and Prof Robertson said it was imperative that there was no further delay in providing every healthcare worker with effective PPE, and argued that, “until it is clear how much transmission is due to aerosol as well as droplet infection, surgical masks should not be considered effective protection.”

They are also critical of the government’s attempts to shift the blame for staff deaths onto community infection, and say they have no faith in the government’s proposed investigation.

Dr Godlee said: “So that we can learn for the future, honour the sacrifice, and seek compensation for families, all deaths of health and social care workers should be referred to the coroner for independent review.”

A SIMPLE GUIDE: How do I protect myself?

  • TESTING: Can I get tested for coronavirus?
  • AVOIDING CONTACT: The rules on self-isolation and exercise



BBC News

Leave a Reply