Exclusive: Findings from more than 620 reviews of health and care staff deaths to remain hidden

Exclusive: Findings from more than 620 reviews of health and care staff deaths to remain hidden

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Ministers have been accused of trying to cover up the findings from investigations into hundreds of health and social care worker deaths linked to coronavirus after it emerged the results will not be made public.
The Independentrevealed on Tuesday that medical examiners across England and Wales have been asked by ministers to investigate more than 620 deaths of frontline staff that occurred during the pandemic.
The senior doctors will review the circumstances and medical cause of death in each case and attempt to determine whether the worker may have caught the virus during the course of their duties.
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But now the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the results will be kept secret with the aim of helping local hospitals to learn and improve protection for staff.
It has sparked criticism from across the political spectrum with both Labour and the Liberal Democrats calling for more transparency and warning against a cover up of any findings.
Separately, trade unions and NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, have urged the government to ensure full investigations into every death and to be transparent about findings to reassure health and social care staff ahead of any second wave.
Read more
Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: We currently have one of the highest number of deaths of health and care workers in Europe. The government has utterly failed to protect staff in both hospitals and care homes. The fact that now they are trying to cover up how and why each tragic death occurs is a disgrace.
This is yet more reason for an immediate independent inquiry into the coronavirus crisis.
Justin Madders, Labours shadow health minister, said: With the UK having the highest number of Covid-19 healthcare worker deaths in the world, it is important that any investigation is fully transparent.
Accountability should be at the forefront of any investigation. The government owe it to the families of those who have lost loved ones in the line of duty to be totally honest with them about what has happened and to demonstrate that lessons have been learnt. They cannot be allowed to sweep this under the carpet.
Where a medical examiner finds a worker may have died as a result of catching the virus at work it will trigger a report from the trust to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which could carry out its own investigation into how the hospital was ensuring staff were protected.
The deaths will also be referred to coroners who could also carry out their own investigations.
Medical examiners will be required to consult the families of workers who have died and consider any concerns they raise.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the safety of staff was paramount adding: Employers already have a legal duty to report to the Health and Safety Executive the deaths of staff who die as a result of exposure to coronavirus from their work. Medical examiners will not decide which deaths are reported to HSE, but will help ensure none are missed.
National medical examiner, Dr Alan Fletcher, a consultant in emergency medicine, will receive a summary of each case and review the findings.
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UK news in pictures
1/50 14 August
People including students hold placards on Whitehall outside Downing Street as they protest against the downgrading of A-level results. The government faced criticism after education officials downgraded more than a third of pupils’ final grades in a system devised after the coronavirus pandemic led to cancelled exams yes
2/50 13 August
Benita Stipp (centre) and Mimi Ferguson (left) react as students at Norwich School receive their A-Level results
3/50 12 August 2020
A train derailment near Stonehaven has left three people dead. Driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie, and a passenger were killed when the 6.38am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street service crashed amid heavy rain and flooding
4/50 11 August 2020
A woman hydrates in the sun after open water swimming at the West Reservoir Centre in north London
5/50 10 August 2020
Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes part in an archery session as he visits Premier Education Summer Camp at Sacred Heart of Mary Girls’ in Upminster
6/50 9 August 2020
People cycle through Cambridge as the heatwave continues in Britain
7/50 8 August 2020
Healthcare workers take part in a protest in London over pay conditions in the NHS
8/50 7 August 2020
Emergency services make their way along the seafront on Bournemouth beach in Dorset on one of the hottest days of the year
9/50 6 August 2020
Alison Murphy poses for a picture by husband Peter as she walks through a field of sunflowers in Altrincham, Cheshire
10/50 5 August 2020
Pakistan’s Abid Ali being bowled by England’s Jofra Archer during day one of the First Test match at the Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester
11/50 4 August 2020
The ‘Timbuktu tumblers’ from Kenya perform their balancing act on the Southsea waterfront as Zippos Circus reopens in Portsmouth
12/50 3 August 2020
Pelicans interact with a visitor in St James’s Park in London
13/50 2 August 2020
Lewis Hamilton drives with a puncture towards the finish line to win the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone
14/50 1 August 2020
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates with the trophy and teammates after winning the FA Cup, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease
15/50 31 July 2020
People enjoy the sunny weather at a Bournemouth Beach
16/50 30 July 2020
An artist puts the finishing touches to a wax figure of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in the entrance line at Madame Tussaud’s in London, as the attraction prepares to reopen to the public following the easing of lockdown restrictions in England
17/50 29 July 2020
A member of staff stands on Ai Weiwei’s ‘History of Bombs’ during a photocall for the Chinese artist’s new work on display at the Imperial War Museum in London
18/50 28 July 2020
Stuart Broad celebrates after taking the wicket of West Indies batsman Kraigg Brathwaite. It was a milestone wicket in his career, reaching his 500th Test Wicket for England. They went on to beat the West Indies in Manchester and therefore win the series 2-1
19/50 27 July 2020
Demonstrators protest outside the Tate Modern in London over proposed job losses in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown. The group believe that the emergency money provided by the government to culture-based organisations should be used to retain all jobs and that any other use of the funding is unfair. The gallery on London’s South Bank, as well as the Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives, reopened today after closing in March due to lockdown measures meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus
20/50 26 July 2020
Harry Maguire shakes hands with Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers after Manchester United beat the Foxes. The win meant they finished third in the Premier League and Leicester finished outside a Champions League place in fourth
21/50 25 July 2020
Women exercise using pool noodles during an aqua fit class at a gym in Sunbury-on-Thames after gyms and swimming pools were allowed to reopen
22/50 24 July 2020
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tries out a new Streetspace protected cycle lane in London at the launch a new online cycle training scheme
23/50 23 July 2020
A customer has her hair cut outside at Blade Hairdressers in Soho in London
24/50 22 July 2020
Liverpool’s English midfielder Jordan Henderson lifts the Premier League trophy during the presentation following the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool. Liverpool on Wednesday lifted the Premier League trophy at the famous Kop stand at Anfield after their final home game of the season
25/50 21 July 2020
Vivienne Westwood demonstrates outside the Old Bailey in support of Julian Assange in London
26/50 20 July 2020
Comet Neowise in the skies over the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire
27/50 19 July 2020
Mods and rockers unite on Madeira Drive, Brighton, for a demonstration to call for the reopening of the road which Brighton & Hove City Council plans to keep closed permanently
28/50 18 July 2020
People enjoy the sunny weather at Painshill, an 18th century landscape garden in Cobham, Surrey
29/50 17 July 2020
Captain Sir Thomas Moore receives his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth, during a ceremony at Windsor Castle
30/50 16 July 2020
Red Arrows do a flypast during the Graduation Ceremony of the Queen’s Squadron at RAF College Cranwell, Lincolnshire
31/50 15 July 2020
Jen Reid poses in front of a black resin and steel statue titled ‘A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020’, which is based on her by Marc Quinn, where it has been installed on the vacant Edward Colston plinth in Bristol city centre. The original statue was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during Black Lives Matter protests
32/50 14 July 2020
Fields of echium and borage in full flower near the town of Thaxted in Essex
33/50 13 July 2020
People ride a rollercoaster in a theme park next to Southend pier. Many businesses in tourism and hospitality have been able to reopen after some lockdown measures were eased
34/50 12 July 2020
West Indies’s John Campbell and Jason Holder celebrate winning the test as England’s Rory Burns and teammates look on dejected
35/50 11 July 2020
Chicldren play in the water during a cricket match between Abinger and Worplesdon & Nurpham in Abinger Hammer, Surrey
36/50 10 July 2020
People gather for the funeral of Dame Vera Lynn in Ditchling, England. During World War II she travelled to the frontlines, including Burma, entertaining British troops and boosting morale. She died on 18 June at her home in West Sussex
37/50 9 July 2020
Artist Anish Kapoor looks into his sculpture ‘Sky Mirror’ at Houghton Hall, King’s Lynn, ahead of the opening of his largest UK exhibition of outdoor sculptures
38/50 8 July 2020
Players take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on the first day of the first Test cricket match between England and the West Indies at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton
39/50 7 July 2020
A circus performer from the Association of Circus Proprietors in Whitehall, London. The association handed a petition to Downing Street to ask Prime Minister Boris Johnson to allow circuses to reopen
40/50 6 July 2020
Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, which re-opened to the public after being closed due to the coronavirus lockdown
41/50 5 July 2020
People visit Columbia Road Flower Market, London, as it reopens following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions across England
42/50 4 July 2020
A member of bar staff wearing PPE in the form of a face mask, pours drinks inside the The Goldengrove in Stratford
43/50 3 July 2020
Cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands prior to the League One play-off semi final match between Portsmouth and Oxford United at Fratton Park
44/50 2 July 2020
A diver cleans the inside window of the seal tank at Tynemouth Aquarium in North Shields, as it prepares to open on Saturday after further coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted in England
45/50 1 July 2020
Slackliner Sandor Nagy practices on the beach in Boscombe, on the south coast of England
46/50 30 June 2020
(left to right) Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill attending the funeral of senior Irish Republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey in west Belfast
47/50 29 June 2020
Former Team GB Rhythmic Gymnastic dancer Hannah Martin during a training session at Ouse Valley Viaduct in Sussex
48/50 28 June 2020
People visit Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, that recently reopened following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restriction
49/50 27 June 2020
A protest for Justice for Shukri Abdi on Trafalgar Square in London, following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK
50/50 26 June 2020
Police at the scene of an incident at the Park Inn Hotel in central Glasgow. Scottish police said armed officers shot dead a man after a suspected stabbing in the city centre left six others injured, including one of their colleagues. Several roads were closed and the surrounding area was cordoned off
1/50 14 August
People including students hold placards on Whitehall outside Downing Street as they protest against the downgrading of A-level results. The government faced criticism after education officials downgraded more than a third of pupils’ final grades in a system devised after the coronavirus pandemic led to cancelled exams yes
2/50 13 August
Benita Stipp (centre) and Mimi Ferguson (left) react as students at Norwich School receive their A-Level results
3/50 12 August 2020
A train derailment near Stonehaven has left three people dead. Driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie, and a passenger were killed when the 6.38am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street service crashed amid heavy rain and flooding
4/50 11 August 2020
A woman hydrates in the sun after open water swimming at the West Reservoir Centre in north London
5/50 10 August 2020
Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes part in an archery session as he visits Premier Education Summer Camp at Sacred Heart of Mary Girls’ in Upminster
6/50 9 August 2020
People cycle through Cambridge as the heatwave continues in Britain
7/50 8 August 2020
Healthcare workers take part in a protest in London over pay conditions in the NHS
8/50 7 August 2020
Emergency services make their way along the seafront on Bournemouth beach in Dorset on one of the hottest days of the year
9/50 6 August 2020
Alison Murphy poses for a picture by husband Peter as she walks through a field of sunflowers in Altrincham, Cheshire
10/50 5 August 2020
Pakistan’s Abid Ali being bowled by England’s Jofra Archer during day one of the First Test match at the Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester
11/50 4 August 2020
The ‘Timbuktu tumblers’ from Kenya perform their balancing act on the Southsea waterfront as Zippos Circus reopens in Portsmouth
12/50 3 August 2020
Pelicans interact with a visitor in St James’s Park in London
13/50 2 August 2020
Lewis Hamilton drives with a puncture towards the finish line to win the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone
14/50 1 August 2020
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates with the trophy and teammates after winning the FA Cup, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease
15/50 31 July 2020
People enjoy the sunny weather at a Bournemouth Beach
16/50 30 July 2020
An artist puts the finishing touches to a wax figure of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in the entrance line at Madame Tussaud’s in London, as the attraction prepares to reopen to the public following the easing of lockdown restrictions in England
17/50 29 July 2020
A member of staff stands on Ai Weiwei’s ‘History of Bombs’ during a photocall for the Chinese artist’s new work on display at the Imperial War Museum in London
18/50 28 July 2020
Stuart Broad celebrates after taking the wicket of West Indies batsman Kraigg Brathwaite. It was a milestone wicket in his career, reaching his 500th Test Wicket for England. They went on to beat the West Indies in Manchester and therefore win the series 2-1
19/50 27 July 2020
Demonstrators protest outside the Tate Modern in London over proposed job losses in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown. The group believe that the emergency money provided by the government to culture-based organisations should be used to retain all jobs and that any other use of the funding is unfair. The gallery on London’s South Bank, as well as the Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives, reopened today after closing in March due to lockdown measures meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus
20/50 26 July 2020
Harry Maguire shakes hands with Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers after Manchester United beat the Foxes. The win meant they finished third in the Premier League and Leicester finished outside a Champions League place in fourth
21/50 25 July 2020
Women exercise using pool noodles during an aqua fit class at a gym in Sunbury-on-Thames after gyms and swimming pools were allowed to reopen
22/50 24 July 2020
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tries out a new Streetspace protected cycle lane in London at the launch a new online cycle training scheme
23/50 23 July 2020
A customer has her hair cut outside at Blade Hairdressers in Soho in London
24/50 22 July 2020
Liverpool’s English midfielder Jordan Henderson lifts the Premier League trophy during the presentation following the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool. Liverpool on Wednesday lifted the Premier League trophy at the famous Kop stand at Anfield after their final home game of the season
25/50 21 July 2020
Vivienne Westwood demonstrates outside the Old Bailey in support of Julian Assange in London
26/50 20 July 2020
Comet Neowise in the skies over the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire
27/50 19 July 2020
Mods and rockers unite on Madeira Drive, Brighton, for a demonstration to call for the reopening of the road which Brighton & Hove City Council plans to keep closed permanently
28/50 18 July 2020
People enjoy the sunny weather at Painshill, an 18th century landscape garden in Cobham, Surrey
29/50 17 July 2020
Captain Sir Thomas Moore receives his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth, during a ceremony at Windsor Castle
30/50 16 July 2020
Red Arrows do a flypast during the Graduation Ceremony of the Queen’s Squadron at RAF College Cranwell, Lincolnshire
31/50 15 July 2020
Jen Reid poses in front of a black resin and steel statue titled ‘A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020’, which is based on her by Marc Quinn, where it has been installed on the vacant Edward Colston plinth in Bristol city centre. The original statue was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during Black Lives Matter protests
32/50 14 July 2020
Fields of echium and borage in full flower near the town of Thaxted in Essex
33/50 13 July 2020
People ride a rollercoaster in a theme park next to Southend pier. Many businesses in tourism and hospitality have been able to reopen after some lockdown measures were eased
34/50 12 July 2020
West Indies’s John Campbell and Jason Holder celebrate winning the test as England’s Rory Burns and teammates look on dejected
35/50 11 July 2020
Chicldren play in the water during a cricket match between Abinger and Worplesdon & Nurpham in Abinger Hammer, Surrey
36/50 10 July 2020
People gather for the funeral of Dame Vera Lynn in Ditchling, England. During World War II she travelled to the frontlines, including Burma, entertaining British troops and boosting morale. She died on 18 June at her home in West Sussex
37/50 9 July 2020
Artist Anish Kapoor looks into his sculpture ‘Sky Mirror’ at Houghton Hall, King’s Lynn, ahead of the opening of his largest UK exhibition of outdoor sculptures
38/50 8 July 2020
Players take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on the first day of the first Test cricket match between England and the West Indies at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton
39/50 7 July 2020
A circus performer from the Association of Circus Proprietors in Whitehall, London. The association handed a petition to Downing Street to ask Prime Minister Boris Johnson to allow circuses to reopen
40/50 6 July 2020
Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, which re-opened to the public after being closed due to the coronavirus lockdown
41/50 5 July 2020
People visit Columbia Road Flower Market, London, as it reopens following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions across England
42/50 4 July 2020
A member of bar staff wearing PPE in the form of a face mask, pours drinks inside the The Goldengrove in Stratford
43/50 3 July 2020
Cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands prior to the League One play-off semi final match between Portsmouth and Oxford United at Fratton Park
44/50 2 July 2020
A diver cleans the inside window of the seal tank at Tynemouth Aquarium in North Shields, as it prepares to open on Saturday after further coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted in England
45/50 1 July 2020
Slackliner Sandor Nagy practices on the beach in Boscombe, on the south coast of England
46/50 30 June 2020
(left to right) Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill attending the funeral of senior Irish Republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey in west Belfast
47/50 29 June 2020
Former Team GB Rhythmic Gymnastic dancer Hannah Martin during a training session at Ouse Valley Viaduct in Sussex
48/50 28 June 2020
People visit Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, that recently reopened following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restriction
49/50 27 June 2020
A protest for Justice for Shukri Abdi on Trafalgar Square in London, following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK
50/50 26 June 2020
Police at the scene of an incident at the Park Inn Hotel in central Glasgow. Scottish police said armed officers shot dead a man after a suspected stabbing in the city centre left six others injured, including one of their colleagues. Several roads were closed and the surrounding area was cordoned off
But the DHSC said the process was aimed at supporting local learning and the findings would not be made public.
Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, urged openness from the government saying: As far as possible we would support a transparent approach to help ensure staff can be confident as they go about their work treating and caring for patients.
She added: We welcome any investigation that teaches us more about the impact of the virus, which has claimed the lives of so many colleagues and friends.
Safety of patients and staff is absolute priority, so its important that where there are lessons, they can be shared and applied.
Its important to acknowledge the incredibly difficult challenges trusts faced in working to protect staff and patients. An exercise in blame helps no one.
The leader of the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr Chaand Nagpaul, told The Independent the families of those who had died deserved answers.
He said: The BMA has campaigned long and hard on the woeful PPE supply issues during the pandemic, and if this, or any other factor in their working environment led to the deaths of doctors or their colleagues this needs to be made public. This is the only way we will ensure lessons are learnt and actions are taken to protect the lives of healthcare workers. Both families left behind, and colleagues who continue to fight the pandemic on the frontline deserve nothing less.
Unisons deputy head of health, Helga Pile, said: Every life lost to Covid-19 of a care or NHS worker is one too many.
Its clear more action is needed to keep staff safe. Unions have already raised concerns that employers are under-reporting deaths and illnesses related to Covid-19.
The hope is this review will put that right and ensure lessons are learnt.
Read more
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the loss of life among NHS staff during the pandemic was heart-breaking.
Kim Sunley, from the RCN added: Every death is a tragedy. There must be proper investigation of each and every death, and a clear understanding of the circumstances, especially the role of workplace exposure, if healthcare workers are to be protected in the future.
A decision by a medical examiner that the death was linked to their work could help families access a £60,000 lump sum compensation scheme made available by the government.
The DHSC confirmed the medical examiner reports could be used to help the decisions to be made.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson rejected the suggestion it was covering up the results adding: The safety of NHS and social care staff is paramount and medical examiner reviews provide an opportunity for learning, reflection and improvement across the health and social care system.
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.

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