NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

State of mortuaries in Scotland to be reviewed

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Media captionFamily 'saddened' by state of Scotland's mortuaries

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell has said a family's distressing experience will be used to bring "positive change" to mortuary services.

The family of Frank Whyte, who died in May aged 69, was left distraught by the state of Spynie Mortuary in Elgin.

They have described its condition as like an "old garage" set in "unkempt" grounds.

Ms Campbell has told MSPs that all health boards have been asked they meet government guidance on mortuaries.

She also said that Scottish government officials will review current guidance to ensure it meets the requirements of bereaved families.

The Whyte family, who were at Holyrood to hear a debate on mortuary provision led by their MSP Richard Lochhead, would be invited to contribute to that review, the minister said.

Mr Whyte, from Forres in Moray, died after a boating accident in Findhorn Bay.

Ms Campbell said the state of Spynie Mortuary, which is no longer used, had compounded "the trauma and pain" of the Whyte family while they were dealing with the "tragic and unexpected" death of Mr Whyte.

All of Scotland's health boards have been asked for information to show that current guidance is being met, the minister said.

Ms Campbell added: "I have further asked if they cannot do this that they give me detailed plans of how they will rectify this as a matter of urgency."

She said there would be "no excuses" for failure to provide adequate mortuary services.

Ahead of the Holyrood debate, the Whytes said they had heard from other bereaved families.

Mr Whyte's daughter, Natalie, said she had thought Spynie was a "one-off".

She told BBC Scotland: "I have been really saddened to know there are other facilities very similar to the mortuary that we went to.

Image copyright Whyte family
Image caption Frank Whyte died after his yacht overturned during a sudden change in the weather at Findhorn Bay

"I had thought we were a one-off."

Mr Whyte's widow, Maryan, said Spynie Mortuary was in a "derelict situation" and the grounds and surroundings were "unkempt".

The building where her husband had been laid out looked like an "old garage" with an "old sofa" inside, she said.

Mrs Whyte said there was no place for her or other members of her family to grieve or compose themselves. Police officers who met the Whytes at the mortuary interviewed Mrs Whyte in their police car.

Mrs Whyte said: "There was compassion from the individuals, but no compassion in the process."

Image caption The Whyte family have told of their distress at the state of Spynie Mortuary

Since speaking publicly about their situation, the Whyte family have been contacted by others from across Scotland who have had similar experiences to them.

Mrs Whyte said they had been contacted by people from the Borders to the north of Scotland.

Later on Thursday, the Whytes' local MSP Richard Lochhead will lead a debate on the issue.

Overturned yacht

Mortuaries in Edinburgh and Aberdeen are owned by city councils, while in Dundee and Glasgow they are owned by the police.

Elsewhere, NHS hospital mortuaries are hired by Police Scotland when dealing with an accidental or unexplained death.

The Whyte family want the Scottish government to standardise the facilities and have them inspected.

Mr Whyte, from Forres in Moray, had been cruising off Findhorn Bay when the weather suddenly turned and a blast of wind overturned his yacht.

NHS Grampian has apologised to his family about the condition of Spynie Mortuary and switched to using a mortuary at Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin.

The health board also said it was working on improving Spynie Mortuary, which is on the site of a former hospital that closed 10 years ago.

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