The investigation will cover the deaths of over 600 nurses, doctors, and care home staff.
Ministers have asked medical examiners to review the deaths of health and social care workers who died during the COVID-19 in order to determine if their death could be attributed to occupational exposure to COVID-19.
The Independent reported that the investigation began last month, covering around 620 deaths of nurses, doctors, and care home staff since the beginning of March. While some of those that died have been publically named, the vast majority remain unnamed.
Medical examiners will independently review every death in order to verify the correct cause of death, review if the member of staff was tested for COVID-19, and indicate how likely it is the virus was caught at work.
The investigation follows numerous and ongoing reports of shortages of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) – something the British Medical Association branded “a national scandal”.
A study, published earlier this year, concluded that some health and care workers had a mortality rate up to five times that of the general population.
A coroner’s investigation is required.
The Doctors’ Association who have previously called for a public inquiry have welcomed the investigation but insist a full coroner’s investigation is required.
Dr Rinesh Parmar, chair of the association, said: “It’s a positive step that the government is recognising these deaths need investigation, but we would ask that they take the next step with a full coroner’s investigation into all health worker deaths.
“Coroners are best placed to carry out independent investigations. They have the experience and they are not directly employed by hospital trusts so there is less of a chance of them being persuaded to make certain decisions or recommendations.”
NHS England say it is right that we understand the circumstances of all the health and social care workers who died during COVID-19.
A spokesperson told The Independent: “NHS and other care staff have gone to extraordinary lengths to treat people during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s absolutely right that we seek to understand the circumstances of every death, which is why all NHS employers will work with the Health and Safety Executive, as well as local and regional medical examiners, to ensure any lessons are learned to protect frontline staff.”
We have contacted Nurses United UK for comment.