Covid Scotland: More than 800 hospital deaths being investigated by Crown Office

More than 800 deaths in hospital linked to Covid-19 are being investigated by a special Crown Office unit, figures show.

The investigatory unit was set up to examine the circumstances of deaths linked to the virus, including those in care homes.

The new figures, which show a total of 827 deaths are being investigated by the team, follow a report by The Scotsman last week revealing the unit was investigating every discharge from hospitals into care homes during the early stages of the pandemic.

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Thursday 9th of April 2020: A first look inside the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh hospital as they prepare for patients with the Covid-19 Coronavirus. Doctors and nurses prepare to enter the Covid ward putting on the PPE safety equipment

Patients were regularly discharged into hospital without being tested for Covid-19. Some were discharged despite positive tests, a policy that led to widespread criticism from opposition parties and bereaved families.

Information around the deaths in hospitals and care homes will be collated and the prosecutors will decide whether each case merits a fatal accident inquiry or even prosecution.

As of October 7, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow has the highest number of reported Covid-linked deaths with 113, although this is likely due to the fact it is Scotland’s largest hospital.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley and the Glasgow Royal Infirmary have the next highest figures, with 71 deaths reported to the Covid unit.

A spokesperson for the Crown Office told the BBC: "CDIT [Covid-19 Deaths Investigation Team] receives and deals with those reports and carries out any investigation which may be justified in the particular circumstances of any particular death or deaths.

"CDIT will work with the relevant agencies to ensure that all necessary and appropriate enquiries are made as quickly as possible."

Latest figures also show almost 3,500 deaths in care homes linked to Covid-19 have been reported to the Crown Office and are under investigation.

The results of the investigation are yet to be decided with the team still at the early information gathering stage. Any decision on prosecution is likely to be linked to any public inquiry into Covid-19 or care home deaths.

A public inquiry is due to be established by the end of 2021.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We mourn every death from Covid-19 and express our sympathy for all those who have lost loved ones, and for the distress and grief experienced by individuals and their families.

"Saving people's lives has been and continues to be the priority of the Scottish Government throughout the pandemic and it would clearly be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing Crown Office investigation."

Dr Scott Davidson, deputy medical director at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: "I want to offer my most sincere condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one during the pandemic.

"People continue to die from this dreadful virus and every death it brings is a tragedy. We will, of course, continue to support investigations into these deaths.

"As Scotland's largest health board area, just under a third of all Covid infections have been recorded within Greater Glasgow and Clyde and, as a result, our largest hospitals have, unfortunately, also seen the highest number of people to sadly die after being infected with Covid-19."

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