COVID-19 STAFF DEATHS – HSE Executive is urged to investigate

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Nurses, risking their lives fighting Covid-19, demonstrate outside Downing Street after being ignored for a pay rise

THE Health and Safety Executive is being urged to investigate hospitals and care homes over the widespread Covid-19 infections among staff, which led to many deaths.

More than 6,500 health and care workers may have been infected with coronavirus through their work, including 100 who died, according to the data from the Health and Safety Executive.

The regulator will launch investigations under the Health and Safety at Work Act if hospitals or care homes are suspected of not taking adequate steps to protect staff from infection.

This could result in hospitals and care homes being prosecuted.

The latest data from the HSE shows between 10 April and 10 August there were a total of 3,382 healthcare workplace infections, including 50 fatal incidents.

In residential care, there were 3,168 infections reported to the watchdog, with 48 fatal cases.

Across the UK, there were 8,666 reported workplace infections and 110 deaths.

The HSE released the data as NHS medical examiners across England are reviewing 625 health and care worker deaths from Covid-19 to try and determine which staff may have been infected at work.

If the results of the review show a worker may have died as a result of a workplace infection the death will have to be reported to the coroner for possible investigation.

Coroners may also hold inquests into deaths.

This will make it much easier for families to claim compensation from the government’s additional death in service payments for £60,000 which was announced by health secretary Matt Hancock in April.

During the pandemic crisis, hospitals reported running out of protective masks and gowns, with some staff buying their own equipment and even resorting to making their own from bin liners.

The HSE is in talks with the Department of Healt and Social Care (DHSC) over the role of the medical examiners in reviewing health worker deaths.

Where a worker is diagnosed with Covid-19 and there is ‘reasonable evidence’ it may have been caused by exposure in the workplace, employers are required to report the case to the HSE under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations know as RIDDOR.

A spokesman for the HSE said: ‘Health and social care employers are being asked to let DHSC know if a worker has died due to coronavirus.

‘This is distinctly separate to the legal duty already in place where duty holders must report cases to the relevant enforcing authority under RIDDOR.’

The spokesman added: ‘Throughout the pandemic our thoughts have always been with the health and social care workers who save lives but have tragically succumbed to Covid-19

‘Where fatal incidents meet our published Incident Selection Criteria, investigations are initiated and next of kin are contacted as a matter of priority, to ensure they are aware of the investigation process.

‘A criminal investigation by HSE will require direct evidence to suggest occupational exposure, which is understandably challenging given the prevalence of the coronavirus there has been in the general population.’