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New Inquiry into NHS Contaminated Blood Scandal Begins

A public inquiry is now underway to identify why thousands of NHS patients were given infected blood products.

During what has been named the ‘worst-ever NHS treatment disaster’ thousands of patients were treated with contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

At the start of the inquiry, ‘emotional testimonies’ were played from those who had been infected with hepatitis and HIV as a result of receiving these contaminated products.

Though there have been other previous inquiries into the scandal, this new one is the first UK wide inquiry that has the power to force witnesses to testify.  The inquiry has come after victims have campaigned for decades stating that they never had the risks explained to them and also that the scandal had been covered up.

Approximately 5,000 individuals altogether who had haemophilia or other bleeding disorders are thought to have received infected blood over a twenty-year period; almost 3,000 of these have now died.  They were given the infected products as a means to make their blood clot, previously, these patients would have faced long stays in hospital to receive blood transfusions.

These products were a new treatment to the NHS in the early 1970s, however, as Britain struggled to keep up with the demand, supplies were sought from the United States. However, large amounts of the blood plasma which was used to create these products was received from donors including prison inmates who sold their blood for money.

During the 1980s the products started to be heat-treated in order to kill viruses, however, it is still questioned as to how much exactly was known before this procedure began and also as to why some products which were contaminated remained in use.

Though previous inquiries have taken place, the government has been ‘strongly criticised for dragging its heels’ with the matter. Previous inquires have also not held the power to compel witnesses to testify or to force the disclosing of documents.  Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor and former Health Secretary has called numerous times for a ‘probe’ into what actually happened and why these contaminated products were used.

In the House of Commons last week, Mr Burnham claimed a “criminal cover up on an industrial scale” had taken place, and that he was prepared to approach the police regarding the matter.

It is believed that the inquiry could take more than two years, and, should it find culpability, open up the door to victims seeking to claim large compensation pay-outs.

 

Triggle, Nick. ‘Contaminated Blood Scandal: Inquiry ‘Must Uncover Truth.’’ BBC News Online.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45591584  (25 September 2018).

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