May announces inquiry into contaminated blood scandal
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
An inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal which has left 2,400 people dead is to be launched, the Government announced on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Theresa May told the Cabinet she and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had decided a probe was needed.
Up until now, the Government had resisted calls for a fresh inquiry into how thousands of people were given contaminated blood products by the NHS in a scandal which has killed at least 2,000 people and left many more suffering serious health conditions, such as hepatitis C or HIV.
In what has been described as one of the NHS' worst scandals, blood products made from high-risk donors such as drug addicts, prisoners and prostitutes were given to patients around the world.
In the UK it mainly affected patients with haemophilia who were given a contamindated blood product called Factor VIII by the NHS in the 70's and 80's.
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The move came just hours before MPs held an emergency debate on the contaminated blood scandal.
Commons Speaker John Bercow granted the debate after a request from Labour's Diana Johnson, who said ministers had failed to consider evidence of criminal activity.
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Former minister Ms Johnson called the contaminated blood scandal 'the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS'.
Details of the UK-wide investigation have yet to be finalised, and consultations will take place with those people affected as to how best to proceed.
The Prime Minister's spokesman told a Westminster briefing: 'Jeremy Hunt said that 2,400 people had died and it was necessary to establish the causes of this appalling injustice.'
The announcement follows a joint call by six opposition political party leaders for a Hillsborough-style inquiry into what happened.
•'My dad is very poorly'
The scandal affected dozens of people in Norfolk and Suffolk and has been highlighted over the last few years in this newsaper.
Bob Brennan, 64, of Mill Road in Thompson, near Watton, is currently receiving care at the Priscilla Bacon Centre for Specialist Palliative Care in Norwich.
He was told he had hepatitis C five years ago, which has since developed into severe liver failure and cancer.
The formerly fit and healthy general manager learned he had contracted hepatitis C from a transfusion using contaminated blood for a damaged oesophagus at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, in 1988.
He was admitted to the Priscilla Bacon Centre on Friday and has been given weeks to live, according to his daughter Danielle Brennan.
Miss Brennan, 30, from Ashill, said: 'The contaminated blood scandal has robbed us of our dad through no fault of his own. My dad is very poorly. We are very angry about this.
'There are people out there now who do not know they have been affected by contaminated blood. I don't want other people to go through what we are going through.'
Speaking on Sunday, before the inquiry was announced, Mr Brennan urged those battling for answers to 'stay with this fight'.
He added: 'It could've been sorted a long, long time ago.
'They took my life away from me and I haven't had any apology. I feel let down by the government.
'It's like Hillsborough. Twenty-six years they had to fight for it - people have just got to grab the bull by the horns because it needs to be done.'
After hearing news on the inquiry launch, the 64-year-old, who has three children and four grandchildren, said he wanted Mrs May to visit him and other blood contamination victims to understand what they were going through.
•'People dying want answers'
Another victim of the contaminated blood scandal, Alan Kirkham, 69, from Meadow Way in Hellesdon, said the inquiry should be done quickly as many victims were dying.
Mr Kirkham, who is managing to stay healthy despite contracting stage two hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver, said: 'This is an issue which has been fudged for nearly 40 years. Let us wait and see what happens.
'I'm glad the Government has acknowledged there is something to look into. It needs to be a fairly quick inquiry because there are lots of people dying now that want to know the answer.
'The Government also needs to announce some proper compensation for people who are seriously ill.'
He claimed contaminated blood victims were not being properly compensated and looked after.
The 69-year-old added: 'Depending on its terms of reference and what sort of inquiry it is going to be - it could be a good thing.'
He wanted it to be a Hillsborough-style investigation with a judge and said the facts were out there.
•Were you affected by the contaminated blood scandal? Email email@example.com or call 01603 77 2834