NHSGGC has a process in place for the handling and management of Sudden and Unexpected Deaths Investigations under investigation by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) led by Rachel McGowan, Legal Claims Manager who works closely with NHS staff and the Procurator Fiscals Service (The Scottish Fatalities Unit) during all PF Investigations underway within NHSGGC.
The Procurator Fiscals Office investigates sudden, unexpected, suspicious, accidental and unexplained deaths occurring in Scotland. When a death occurs, and the circumstances appear to give cause for concern, the PF will undertake an investigation looking at the facts surrounding the death. The initial investigation is not an FAI, but it may lead to one as this is the purpose of the investigation to determine whether an FAI should be considered.
Mandatory FAI’s are held in to deaths that result from an accident in the course of employment and deaths in legal custody, for example, prison deaths, police custody.
The sole purpose of the PF investigation is to determine if there should be an FAI. The undernoted five main points will be considered, investigated allowing PF/Crown Office to come to a decision:-
- Where and when the death took place
- Cause or causes of the death
- The reasonable precautions, if any, that might have avoided the death
- The defects, if any, in any system of work that contributed to the death
- Any other facts relevant to the circumstances of the death
During the investigation stage, PF can request various pieces of information to assist them, for example, Significant Critical Incident Report (SCI), Action Plan, training details, complaints paperwork, information on any recommendations and actions taken as a result of internal review. PF may also seek statements (precognition statement) from relevant clinical and nursing staff involved in the treatment and care of the deceased leading up to their death. Precognition statements taken by the PF or a Precognition Officer are normally done face to face and on a one to one basis with no other parties present. The purpose of taking a precognition statement is to allow PF to evaluate your evidence in respect of the circumstances surrounding the death.
The PF investigation can last months or even years and once concluded, recommendations will be made by PF to the Crown Office on whether an FAI should take place in relation to the facts surrounding the death.
If you are currently involved in a procurator fiscal investigation, it may be helpful to have a read over the NHS Staff Resource Guide on FAI’s along with the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) link on this site providing you with some helpful information and guidance in respect of that process, if and when, an FAI is determined by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).