Armed Forces Claim for contaminated blood
British soldiers face an agonising wait for tests after the Government confirmed some may have been exposed to contaminated blood after the US military failed to follow the correct procedures.
Eighteen soldiers injured in Iraq or Afghanistan were given transfusions using blood sourced from the Americans as part of their emergency treatment.
But defence minister Derek Twigg said the batches were not properly screened, sparking fears the troops may have been contaminated with diseases such as HIV, hepatitis or syphilis.
Mr Twigg said: "The procedures weren't followed in terms of retrospective testing by the Americans.
"We work very closely with the Americans in terms of battlefield casualties, and a number of our people have been saved by the Americans at their medical centres."
He said the matter is being taken "extremely seriously", but added the chance of infection is "low".
He continued: "What's been very important is we had to go through the records very carefully to make sure we do identify those people who have potential risk.
"Of course those include many thousands of records, and it's important to get it right, and that's what we did.
"As soon as we had confirmation of the names, we started the process of informing people and their GPs and medical officers."
Andrew Tucker from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors Armed Forces Team commented, "This is obviously a serious matter that could have long term implications for those Service personnel effected. It is important that those soldiers and families involved get the right advice and support as quickly as possible."
Sallie Booth from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors commented, "it is unforgivable that troops who are putting their lives at risk in combat zones are then unnecessarily exposed to the further risk of developing very serious medical conditions all because procedures are not properly followed. Surely medical facilities should be properly equipped so that blood which has to be provided on the front line is required only in extreme circumstances. The risks of infection from blood transfusions have been well known for at least 30 years. Delayed treatment can prove fatal. Therefore, if contaminated blood has been given, retrospective testing of donors ought to be carried to ensure that any risk to these military personnel is minimised."
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