The findings of reviews into the deaths of workers from the COVID-19 virus may be kept secret, it was reported today.
The news, reported in the Independent, angered doctors’ leaders, who called for the medical examiner investigations to be made public.
The local examiners are to conduct reviews of the deaths of more than 620 NHS staff during the pandemic. They will be reporting their findings to the national medical examiner Dr Alan Fletcher.
The examiners may also refer cases to local coroners or to the Health and Safety Executive – and will consult families of the deceased. But the families may not receive the findings.
The Department for Health and Social Care said the process aimed to “support local learning.” The paper quotes it as saying the findings would not be made public – although it has not yet decided finally what to do with them.
A spokesperson said: “A summary of every case is received by the national medical examiner, who reviews findings and ensures employers are contacted if deemed necessary. We are monitoring progress of the medical examiners’ scrutiny, and consideration will be given to whether further steps should be taken in due course.”
Doctors’ Association chair Dr Rinesh Parmar said: “Following a petition with over 120,000 signatures we launched a legal challenge with the Good Law Project to urge the government to launch a rapid public inquiry into healthcare worker deaths and guarantee that investigations are opened in every case. Following that pressure the government has sanctioned medical examiner investigations, but we are learning that their findings may be hidden or swept under a rug.
“The families of our colleagues who have died deserve to know what happened, the circumstances surrounding the death and whether a lack of adequate PPE led to the deaths of loved ones.”
He added: “Learning needs to be widely shared in an NHS where we learn not blame, where we improve and prevent future tragedies and safeguard staff and patients alike. This is simply not possible if the findings are buried rather than published openly.”