Deaths linked to coronavirus dare being investigated at more than 450 care homes across Scotland.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) dedicated Covid-19 Death Investigation Team (CDIT) is currently looking into the circumstances of deaths in a total of 474 care homes throughout Scotland.
The CDIT was established last May, after Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said all confirmed or suspected virus deaths in care homes must be reported to the crown, as well as the deaths of people who may have been infected with the virus at work.
The team has received 3,385 death reports, and the majority of these are believed to be linked to people who lived in care homes.
The CDIT team is composed of 14 members of staff, including eight lawyers.
A spokesman for the COPFS said the CDIT team said the latest figure of 3,385 includes retrospective reports.
There were 629 reports in December alone.
The spokesman said: “”The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has established a dedicated team to deal with reports of Covid-19 or presumed Covid-19 deaths in care homes, or where the deceased may have contracted the virus in the course of their employment.
“The Covid-19 Deaths Investigation Team receives and deals with those reports and will work with the relevant agencies to ensure that all necessary and appropriate investigations are undertaken and that each investigation progresses as expediently as it can.”
A great number of deaths have been reported among those who lived in care homes and tested positive for the virus in recent months across the north and north-east of Scotland.
At the start of the year, two north-east care homes where 27 people died and more than 150 people were infected by Covid-19 were criticised by health inspectors.
The COPFS is investigating the deaths, which took place among those from Inchmarlo House care home near Banchory, and Deeside Care Home in Cults.
Yesterday, the Care Inspectorate published a subsequent report, where it re-evaluated its rating of Inchmarlo House’s care and support during the pandemic from weak to adequate.
The watchdog noted improvements in the categories of infection control practices, staffing arrangements, and supporting and safeguarding people’s health and wellbeing.
A spokeswoman for Inchmarlo House said: “The Care Inspectorate’s reinspection is part of our important journey of healing and has given us the opportunity to demonstrate our resilience and restorative efforts in the face of the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19 on our operations.
“The improved grade, achieved in a short space of time, provides evidence of the strength of the management and the commitment of the staff to do everything possible to meet the care, health and wellbeing needs of our residents.
“We remain dedicated to further improving these grades to previous standards over the coming days, weeks and months.
“We continue to work in close collaboration with the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership whose support throughout these difficult times has been invaluable.”
At Rubislaw Park care home in Aberdeen, the COPFS is investigating the deaths of 11 individuals.
Further north, a number of Covid cases have been confirmed at the Parklands and Burnbank care homes in Buckie.
“Several” members of staff and residents at the facilities have tested positive, and all residents are now isolating in their rooms, with visits suspended.
Two people have died after 20 Covid cases were identified at the Castle Gardens Care Home in Invergordon, and the Fodderty care home near Dingwall.
One woman died at the Castle Gardens care home, and a man died at the Fodderty facility.