12 JUL 2017

Public inquiry into NHS contaminated blood scandal announced

Public inquiry into NHS contaminated blood scandal announced

The government has announced a public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal, which killed at least 2,400 people during the 1970s and 1980s. During that period, thousands of NHS patients were given blood products infected with hepatitis C and HIV. 

Family members of those who died will be consulted about what form the inquiry should take. Prime Minister Theresa May said it could be a public Hillsborough-style inquiry or a judge-led statutory inquiry. The Haemophilia Society argues that the inquiry must look at allegations of a cover-up and suppression of views continuing until the present day.

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A Parliamentary report found around 7,500 patients were infected by imported blood products. Many were patients with haemophilia, which requires regular treatment with clotting agent Factor VIII made from donated blood. However, much of the plasma used to make Factor VIII came from donors such as prison inmates in the US, who sold their blood.

Haemophilia Society chief executive, Liz Carroll said: 

'For decades people with bleeding disorders and their families have sought the truth. Instead, they were told by the government that no mistakes were made while it repeatedly refused to acknowledge evidence of negligence and a subsequent cover up. Finally, they will have the chance to see justice.’

To be successful, the Haemophilia Society said the inquiry must:

• involve the affected community in deciding the remit and ensure their voices are heard in the taking of evidence;

• consider what knowledge government, clinicians and pharmaceutical companies had at what time of the risks of blood transfusions and blood products;

• consider the subsequent treatment of people affected, including diagnosis, testing, support and the circumstances by which partners and other family members became infected; and

• look at allegations of a cover-up and suppression of views continuing until the present day.

During the inquiry phase, the Haemophilia Society argues that the inquiry should have the power to:

• seek evidence from pharmaceutical companies and others outside the UK;

• compel witnesses to give evidence under oath; and

• insist on the disclosure of all documents by government and government bodies including health authorities.

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