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'Harrowing' evidence of contaminated blood victims comes to close

PUBLISHED: 13:03 03 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:03 03 November 2019

Contaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Contaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

After waiting for years to have their stories heard, victims of the "worst scandal in the history of the NHS" have now finished giving their evidence.

Contaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal, pictured with her dog, Poppy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYContaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal, pictured with her dog, Poppy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Infected Blood Inquiry has heard from hundreds of victims over the last six months, including Norfolk grandmother Michelle Tolley.

The 54-year old has spent the last three weeks at the hearing in London, supporting other patients who were given blood products infected with HIV and Hepatitis C in the 1970s and 80s.

"It's been harrowing," she said. "I've found it very emotional and sat there with tears in my eyes."

The mother-of-four, from Sparham near Dereham, was given a blood transfusion for a haemorrhage after giving birth to her first child in 1987, and another during an emergency caesarean section when having twins in 1991.

Michelle Tolley speaking at the Infected Blood Inquiry in London. Photo: Infected Blood InquiryMichelle Tolley speaking at the Infected Blood Inquiry in London. Photo: Infected Blood Inquiry

But it was not until 2015 that she was eventually diagnosed with hepatitis C and found out she had been given infected blood.

Giving evidence to the inquiry in May, she said she felt "betrayed" by her GP who dismissed her request to have a blood test.

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"I went to see him, explained I was exhausted, absolutely exhausted, and that I had had two separate blood transfusions before the bloods were screened," she said.

But she was sent away and made to feel like a "silly little girl".

Some 4,800 people with haemophilia were infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970s and 1980s. Of those more than 2,000 are thought to have died.

They were given contaminated blood products called Factor VIII or IX.

Des Collins, senior partner of Collins Solicitors representing over 1,400 people at the inquiry, said: "There has been a pattern to so many of the stories we have heard of misinformation, lack of information, withholding information and the covering-up of information.

"To see and hear first-hand, again and again, what the effect on the lives of all those affected has been, has been truly shocking. Those affected have had no explanation, no apology and no recompense."

The inquiry, led by retired judge Sir Brian Langstaff, will begin again in February hearing from politicians and civil servants.

-Anyone affected can contact the inquiry at www.infectedbloodinquiry.org.uk

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