Mortuary review group: response

Response to review the standard of all mortuaries across Scotland, as defined by the Public Health (Scotland) Act 2008.

Annex A: Why the review was necessary

On Saturday 21 May 2016, Frank Whyte lost his life in a tragic sailing accident in the approaches to Findhorn Bay. At a time when Scotland's public services should have been there to support Frank's family in their time of distress, we let them down badly.

Frank was taken to Spynie Mortuary in Elgin, but the condition of the mortuary was unkempt, rundown and totally unsuitable, which made an already distressing experience for the family much worse. At the very least, a mortuary must allow families to be consoled, where the deceased is treated with dignity, respect and compassion. As well as facilities which were clearly sub-standard, Frank's wife Maryan and her daughters also had to endure a totally unacceptable identification process that seemed to have no regard for how traumatic and emotionally upsetting the whole experience was for the family. A post mortem was later carried out in Aberdeen, so their experience involved Police Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS), Moray Council, NHS Grampian and their Funeral Director.

However it was not just the condition of the mortuary where the service delivered was inadequate. When Frank's wife looked to inform the appropriate authorities of what she and her family had been through, it proved to be very difficult to identify who was responsible for Spynie Mortuary. While Maryan contacted NHS Grampian, Moray Council and Police Scotland it was unclear as to who was ultimately accountable for the service and the processes and procedures involved in the entire experience.

In every regard the mortuary at Spynie along with the processes and procedures failed in what it had to do and all the public bodies involved quickly apologised to the Whyte family. Spynie Mortuary is no longer in use and mortuary facilities in Moray are now provided at Dr Gray's Hospital. Fortunately, the family had the strength and resolve to campaign to improve mortuary standards across the whole of Scotland and worked closely with Richard Lochhead MSP to make a difference.


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