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“There has to be justice” - contaminated blood victims dying waiting for public inquiry

PUBLISHED: 14:37 31 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:37 31 March 2018

Michelle Tolley had blood transfusions twice when she was pregnant in the 1980s and got diabetes by the 1990s. She diagnosed with Hep C in 2015. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Michelle Tolley had blood transfusions twice when she was pregnant in the 1980s and got diabetes by the 1990s. She diagnosed with Hep C in 2015. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Since the Government announced a public inquiry into the contaminated blood tragedy last July, 70 more people have died.

Cabinet minister Chloe Smith confirmed funding will be available for contaminated blood victimsCabinet minister Chloe Smith confirmed funding will be available for contaminated blood victims

Described as the worst disaster in the history of the NHS, the scandal has claimed the lives of up to 2,500 people since the 1970s and 1980s.

It involves the use of blood-clotting products by the NHS that were made from plasma donated through high risk sources, such as paid donors in the United States.

The blood factor products caused haemophiliacs and others to be infected with diseases including HIV and Hep C.

Last month newly appointed inquiry chair, Justice Brian Langstaff, invited some of the victims to the Royal Courts of Justice. One of the first, on March 6, was Michelle Tolley, from Sparham.

She was infected with Hepatitis C following a blood transfusion while giving birth in 1987, and now runs support group Contaminated Whole Blood UK. She wasn’t diagnosed until 2015.

“No amount of money can give me back what was stolen from me, or what I could have had in the future,” she said. “I know I will die of this.

“I want accountability and I need closure. This kind of thing must never happen again. It is a national tragedy. When you think the NHS has been going for 70 years, this has been going on four decades now. There has got to be justice.”

She said after her meeting with Mr Justice Langstaff she has “high hopes” for the inquiry.

“He seems very genuine,” she said. “I thought this is a window of opportunity so I asked our members to share their journeys with me so I could hand them to him personally. I cried my eyes out after reading all of them, and I asked him to read every one because they are all souls.

“I explained from my point of view as a victim the shocking knowledge of finding out all those missed opportunities where detection should have been followed through and blood tests should have been done.”

Mrs Tolley, 52, also fears there may be thousands of people who are still unaware they are victims.

“There is a lot of people out there who find out by chance, and often it is too late,” she said. “Since we said this inquiry was going to begin last July we have lost 70 people. How many more are out there who have died and not known?

“It is devastatingly frightening.”

The consultation for the inquiry terms of reference closes on April 26.

Anyone affected by the contaminated blood scandal can contribute at consultations.infectedbloodinquiry.org.uk.

Victims will get funding

The Government has announced it will pay for the legal advice of those affected by the contaminated blood scandal.

Cabinet Office minister and Norwich North MP Chloe Smith confirmed in the Commons that funds would be provided for families seeking legal advice on the terms of reference of a public inquiry.

Ms Smith said: “The infected blood tragedy of the 70s and 80s should never have happened and the victims of this tragedy who have endured so much pain and hardship deserve answers.

“This Government will ensure that the inquiry has the resources it needs to complete its work as quickly as a thorough examination of the facts allows.”

She added the government “is not denying funds” to victims.

The consultation on the terms of reference for the inquiry closes next month and the inquiry will be starting “very shortly in those weeks after April 26”, said Ms Smith.

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