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In cases of sudden or unexpected death, a post mortem examination might be necessary to establish a cause of death. Where toxicological analysis is required, the final post mortem report cannot be issued until that has been completed.
The Crown has been experiencing delays in provision of toxicology reports. In those cases, that will affect the timescale for provision of final post mortem reports. Those events will rarely prevent or delay release of the deceased’s body to their next of kin or nearest relatives. However, I appreciate the impact that a delay in establishing the cause of death can have on bereaved relatives.
Officials in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service have met pathology and toxicology leads to discuss workloads and capacity, and have agreed a system of workload prioritisation. They will keep bereaved relatives advised, in accordance with the service’s commitments in “The Family Liaison Charter”.
It is disappointing to hear that contractual issues between the Crown Office and the University of Glasgow are delaying post mortem reports. I am pleased that the Lord Advocate agrees that those delays are unacceptable, and I hope that he will apologise to the families who are affected.
Will the Lord Advocate write to me with detailed information about the backlog and about waiting times for pathology and toxicology reports, and outline what action is being taken to address those matters?
I very much appreciate Monica Lennon’s continuing interest in the subject, and am happy to confirm that I will write to her shortly about those matters. As she is aware, the University of Glasgow has intimated that it no longer wishes to provide the services in the longer term. The Crown Office is in discussions with an alternative provider.
I am pleased that Glasgow university has indicated that it will maintain the existing contract—which is in place until the end of September next year—in order to allow the transition to a new provider to take place. My officials regularly meet staff at Glasgow university to discuss workloads and performance, and have had a meeting specifically to discuss plans for future provision of the service.
I certainly regret the impact that delays have on bereaved relatives. I am happy to reiterate my confirmation that I will write to Monica Lennon in detail on the matter.