Blood Inquiry Calls For Hep C Tests

25 March 2015, 12:13 | Updated: 25 March 2015, 12:16

People who had a blood transfusion before 1991 should now be tested for hepatitis C, an inquiry into contaminated NHS blood supplies has recommended.

Hundreds of people in Scotland, many of whom were haemophiliac patients, were infected with hepatitis C and HIV through contaminated blood and blood products by the NHS in the 1970s and 1980s.

An inquiry set up to investigate what went wrong and what lessons could be learned has published its findings.

It said more should have been done to screen blood and donors for hepatitis C in the early 1990s, and said the collection of blood from prisoners should have stopped earlier.

It also said that nothing could have been done to prevent the transmission of HIV.

The inquiry, chaired by Lord Penrose, was set up following demands from campaign groups.

A statement read on behalf of Lord Penrose said: "For people infected by HIV/Aids and/or hepatitis C, the impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones has often been devastating.

"I would also comment on the often forgotten suffering of clinical staff, who discovered that the treatments they thought were beneficial to patients actually caused them to become infected with life-threatening conditions.

"They too have been affected, especially when accused of knowing or deliberate attempts to harm patients.''

The inquiry's single recommendation is that the Scottish Government takes all reasonable steps to offer a hepatitis C test to everyone in Scotland who had a blood transfusion before September 1991 and who has not been tested for the disease.

It investigated whether more could have been done to prevent infection in particular groups of patients and found that there were "few respects in which matters should, or more importantly could, have been handled differently'', but the inquiry did find that more could have been done to introduce screening for hepatitis C earlier.

A decision to recommend the introduction of screening should have been taken by the middle of May 1990, rather than in November 1990, it found.

In relation to Aids, the inquiry believes that, once the risk had emerged, "all that could reasonably be done was done''.

When actions in Scotland are compared to other countries around the world, they hold up well, it found.

Lord Penrose is seriously ill and was not present at the publication event, held at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

A statement was read out on his behalf by inquiry secretary Maria McCann.

Some families shouted out "whitewash'' as soon as the inquiry statement ended.

Bill Wright, from Haemophilia Scotland, begged people to stay to listen to him, saying: "This is by no means the end of the story.''

One woman shouted: "We've shed enough tears.''

Mr Wright said, sobbing: "I am one of you, I am infected.''

He said of the report: "It's not about broken processes, it's about broken lives.''

He said now was the time for an apology.

He added that there was now light at the end of a very long tunnel.

"We will, together, finally get this thing done.''