An inquiry was underway yesterday after an NHS van arrived at a garage for repairs – with a BODY in the back.
Horrified mechanics discovered the corpse as the specialist mortuary vehicle was taken in for a broken tail light.
An NHS employee has been suspended and red-faced health chiefs have apologised to the distressed family of the deceased.
Patients’ campaigner Margaret Watt said the body blunder was ‘absolutely horrendous’.
She stormed: “Who would have ever thought that someone’s body could just be left in the back of a van? It’s disgraceful.
“What were the drivers doing? Surely they must have known that they weren’t just on a day out and that they actually had a body in the back of the van.
“The corpse could have been there for days if the mechanics hadn’t found it.
“This is totally unacceptable and it should never have happened.”
The van belonged to NHS Grampian and was used to transport bodies to the city mortuary in Aberdeen.
The body was found on Wednesday when it arrived at the AM Phillip garage in the city.
Mrs. Watts, of the Scottish Patients Association, added: “My heart goes out to the family and a simple apology from NHS Grampian isn’t enough.
“They need to go and face up to the family and someone’s head should roll for this and I don’t care who it is.”
NHS Grampian said: “This is a very serious incident and we are dealing with it as a matter of urgency.
“We have been in touch with the family of the deceased person and have apologised unreservedly for the distress that this incident has caused them.
“We have also been in touch with the garage and have apologised for the distress that may have been caused to their staff.
“We have very strict processes in place to ensure that we deal sensitively and respectfully with deceased patients. Clearly these did not work on this occasion.
“We have taken immediate action to commission an independent investigation to understand what has gone wrong.
“Pending this investigation a member of staff has been suspended.
“We are deeply sorry for this regrettable incident and we are absolutely committed to taking whatever action is required to ensure that this situation can never happen again”.
The patient died at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary earlier this week.
NHS Grampian refused to say whether the deceased was an adult or a child.
Lewis Macdonald, the Member of the Scottish Parliament for North East Scotland, said: “This incident is extraordinary and unacceptable.
“It is bound to cause concern and NHS Grampian are looking into it which is the right thing to do.
“It must be an incredibly difficult situation for the family.
“I understand that they have received an apology but it is important that they also receive an explanation as soon as possible.
“It is obviously a difficult enough time when a family member dies without any further distress.
“The member of garage staff will also be as shocked as everyone else.
“It is clear that even in even the best regulated systems human error can be a factor and mistakes do happen but clearly some are more distressing than others.
“Incidents such as these need to be investigated quickly and that is what is happening.”
A NHS Grampian spokeswoman confirmed that the corpse discovered in the back of the van in Aberdeen was inside a hospital body bag.
Staff at the garage refused to comment.