In the 1970s and 1980s many patients were known to be infected with HIV and Hepatitis C – it was scandal that led to one of the largest Uk-wide public inquiries as it has led to death of atleast 2,400 people. Inquiry is investigating how through the claims of a thorough cover up patients were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C from contimated blood source.
The inquiry has pledged to investigate all the claims and hold anyone found to be responsible to account “without fear of favour”.
Sir Brian Langstaff, former High court judge is the chairman of this inquiry stated that there could be many more victims who don’t know they have been diagnosed with either of the two diseases. “The numbers here today (Monday) pay a silent testimony to the sheer scale of the tragedy,” he said.
“It is a truly sobering thought that if some of the claims are well-founded – and it is for this inquiry to find out if they are – there may yet be many thousands more who do not feel well, but have not yet been told that the reason for this is that their life is threatened by Hepatitis C.”
Inquiries were conducted in the past but have lacked the power to be able to force witnesses to come and give evidence. This was important to understand if information and risks were known about and then concealed from patients or they didn’t know about the contamination of the source.
Many government documents from those years were allegedly trashed, missing medical records and other documents relevant to this inquiry has led the inquiry heads to believe there was a cover-up in this scandal. The inquiry commission will call upon government ministers, civil servants and NHS officials from the period to take account and question their actions.
“I am willing to seek documents that may not have been seen before. We have already requested a number of documents which we would not have got if this was not a statutory inquiry,.
“This inquiry is willing to hold people to account where this is appropriate and it will express its views at the end without fear or favour, affection or ill will.” Sir Brian said.
Over the course of two decades more than 5,000 people may have clotting disorder haemophilia because of receiving contaminated blood products.
Most of the stocks of blood products were initially relied on imports from US as the United Kingdom did not have many reserves. Paid donors including prisoners, sex workers, drug users and others at high risk of infection were allowed to donate blood. Blood wasn’t purified in the way it is done today, hence many products could have infections and transmitted that way and infections in the 1980s were mostly related to HIV as the number of cases then was at its highest. These contaminated blood stocks were used in transfusions in hospital, for minor and major injuries. And according to the amount of transfers from undiagnosed and diagnosed there may be 30,000 people infected in all.
“For those affected, their families and the campaign groups this is a day few thought that they would ever see – and it is a testament to those who have campaigned so hard to make it a reality” Des Collins, Collins Solicitors is representing 800 victims and their families along with other campaign groups.
Collins Solicitors said “Many of those who have survived face a lifetime of medication and are having to cope with serious illness and discrimination.”