Thousands of patients were infected with hepatitis C and HIV during the 1970s and 80s
Labour MP Andy Burnham has called for a new inquiry into the NHS’ use of contaminated blood products during the 1970s and 80s, which have been linked to more than 2,000 deaths.
“We urge the government to re-investigate these allegations, as it may be the only way to really help those impacted by this scandal.”
Samantha Hemsley national head of the clinical negligence team at Thompsons
The former health secretary spoke of a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale” in the House of Commons, describing the infected patients as “guinea pigs”.
The scandal found that haemophiliacs and other patients developed hepatitis C and HIV from imported blood products. Some of the imported supplies of the clotting agent Factor VIII were infected, and it is reported that much of the plasma used to make the clotting agent was from donors such as US prison inmates, who sold their blood.
A 2015 parliamentary report suggested around 7,500 people were infected by the imported blood products, and more than 2,000 deaths have been linked to the scandal. Last year, the government announced that victims in England with stage one hepatitis C would receive £3,500 a year, with higher provisions for those who developed HIV from the infected blood.
Mr Burnham is now echoing calls from families of victims and the Haemophilia Society for a public “Hillsborough-style inquiry” after giving examples of inappropriate treatment to patients and tests being carried out without consent. However, calls have been resisted by the Health Minister, Nicola Blackwood, as she said the Department for Health has already released thousands of documents relating to the issue and two reviews have been carried out.
Samantha Hemsley, national head of the clinical negligence team at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Thousands of lives have been affected and yet there has never been a concrete conclusion as to who is at fault. This lack of proper process coupled with the government’s meagre financial provision for those affected, just isn’t acceptable for the individuals and families whose lives have been changed forever.
“Allegations that information was withheld from patients and treatments were performed without consent are extremely serious and it is totally unacceptable if that they haven't been investigated thoroughly. Trying to hush victims with small annual payments isn't the answer. We back the call for an independent report as the public, but especially those affected, need to know what went on here and lessons need to be learned.
“Thompsons Solicitors has supported thousands of families whose lives have been turned upside down because of medical error and we know from that how crucially important some sense of understanding and closure is to those affected. We urge the government to re-investigate these allegations, as it may be the only way to really help those impacted by this scandal.”
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