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Contaminated Blood Victim Demands Public Inquiry Into Scandal

MP And Charity Also Call For Action

16.05.2017

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Specialist lawyers have joined with victims of the NHS contaminated blood scandal of the 1970s and 1980s to give their support to calls from a charity and an MP for a full statutory inquiry to finally be held into the issue.

The scandal saw thousands of people suffering from haemophilia and other conditions treated with contaminated NHS blood products across a number of years. Around 4,670 people treated in this manner later contracted hepatitis C, while 1,200 were also diagnosed with HIV.

Labour MP Andy Burnham recently raised the issue in a debate in the House of Commons, saying that “all of us here are collectively culpable of failing to act on evidence that is there before us if only we cared to look and, by extent, failing thousands of our fellow citizens who are the victims of perhaps the greatest untold injustice in the history of this country.”

The MP described the lack of full compensation for victims of the scandal as “a total disgrace”. He also called for a “disclosure process” similar to the Hillsborough inquiry to be launched with a view to the full truth coming out around the issue.

The Haemophilia Society, a UK wide charity for people affected by a bleeding disorder, who campaign for people affected by contaminated blood products, has gone further by calling for “a full public inquiry under the Inquiries Act” because “only this could compel witnesses” and “shed light” on the issues. A letter to the Prime Minister by the charity was signed by over 500 family, friends and campaign groups.

Now, Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law team, which is representing clients affected by the scandal, have added their voice to the growing demand for further action to finally address the issue.

The first of two clients that Irwin Mitchell represents in relation to the scandal is a man, known only as SM for legal reasons, who received contaminated blood products via a transfusion as a child in the last 1970s after his Ehlers-Danlos syndrome was misdiagnosed as haemophilia. The blood products provided were contaminated and he contracted chronic hepatitis C, which he was only alerted to some 35 years later. SM’s diagnosis affected his health and wellbeing greatly and caused him to suffer extreme depression. He lost his job as a project manager as a result, and this detrimentally impacted his family.

He said: “Discovering I have hepatitis C was devastating, particularly when I read my medical notes and it was clear that 17 months previously two top hospitals had found that I did not have haemophilia. All I had was a swollen knee and yet I was treated with 12 transfusions including contaminated blood products. It is shocking to think about how this has happened, particularly with the double whammy of my blood transfusions as a child not actually being necessary.

“Like so many others, I simply feel like my situation has been completely ignored. The issue of contaminated blood seems to have been forgotten but so many of us deserve answers regarding what has happened to us.

“Following the election, we would urge the Government to make this issue one of its top priorities by agreeing to conduct a full and properly resourced public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.”

Alice Cullingworth, the legal expert in Public Law and Human Rights at Irwin Mitchell who is acting in the case, said:

Expert Opinion
“The NHS contaminated blood scandal is something that should never have been allowed to happen. Victims say that at many stages, opportunities to stop or correct the problem were missed, or even worse, ignored.

“Sadly, many people lost their lives as a direct result of being given contaminated blood products. Those who survived were left at lifelong risk of serious illness and infection.

“More than 30 years on from the scandal there is still not enough support for those affected. Victims not only deserve to be fairly and adequately compensated, but also to get the answers they deserve regarding how these problems were allowed to emerge. Every effort must be made to ensure a scandal of this kind never happens again.”
Alice Cullingworth, Solicitor

Adam Wagner of 1 Crown Office Row is also instructed to advise on the case.

If you or a loved one as had a negligent blood transfusion or contaminated blood product, our medical negligence solicitors could help you to claim compensation. Visit our Blood Transfusion Claims page for more information.