New calls for HIV blunder inquiry

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

The Haemophilia Society has renewed calls for a public inquiry into how what has been described as the greatest treatment disaster in the history of the NHS took place.

Over 4000 people with haemophilia were exposed to HIV during the 1970s and 1980s through the use of contaminated blood products by the NHS. It is believed that up to 1,000 of these have since died as a result.

The society has been calling for a full public inquiry for some years and in February the Government published a long-awaited report into self sufficiency in blood products in England and Wales during the period between 1973 and 1991.

However, they branded the report as an attempt to gloss over the details of the medical disaster, and claimed the government has shredded large numbers of documents that would have given an insight into key policy decisions by the Government that contributed to the infection of the haemophilia population.

Margaret Unwin, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society said: “We want a public inquiry into the whole issue. People are living on levels of support provided by the government which were set many years ago and a significant number are experiencing hardship.

“They have not even been given the courtesy of a full explanation as to what happened to them, as important documents have been destroyed.”

The society has welcomed today’s question in the House of Lords from Lord Jenkin of Roding asking if the Department of Health’s Self-sufficiency in Blood Products report is a complete account of the circumstances leading to the infection of NHS patients with HIV and Hepatitis C from contaminated blood products.

Margaret Unwin said: “Reading the report, which does not have a named author, it appears to be a fairly blatant attempt to gloss over the details of the events of the time and even to lay blame at the door of the patients themselves.

“The Government has already admitted that it has shredded many of the documents that refer to the time period in question, but that still doesn’t explain the strange assortment of references they made in the report – ranging from clinical journals to the Sun newspaper.

“This document is greatly flawed and has, I believe been produced to deflect the call for a wide-ranging public inquiry into the whole issue. The report has been produced internally, informally and very poorly by the Department of Health. It is not public, not an inquiry and merely reflects the views of the Department itself.

“I think it shows very strongly that an independent and wide ranging inquiry is needed to ensure all of the issues surrounding the contamination of the UK blood product supply that devastated the lives of an entire generation of people with haemophilia are brought into the open.”

A Department of Health spokesperson told they are considering the letter, “We have great sympathy for those people and their families who were infected as a result of these contaminated blood products.

“We commissioned a review into how these patients were infected. The report

concluded that clinicians acted in the best interests of their patients in light of the facts that were available at the time.

“It is important to remember that many patients would have died or suffered permanent joint damage without treatment with these blood products.

“It is also important to recognise that prior to 1989 the hepatitis C virus had not been identified and screening for Hep C was introduced in 1991. The development of this test was a major advance in the field which could not have been implemented before this time.

“Because of this combination of factors, clinicians prescribed blood products without all the knowledge that would have enabled them to make a properly informed judgement about the balance of risk involved.”