Lord Penrose’s report on the thousands of NHS patients across the UK who were infected with Hepatitis C and HIV after being given contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s was published today, 25 March 2015. Victims and relatives of a contaminated blood scandal shouted out "whitewash" at the end of a news conference which revealed the findings of a judge-led inquiry.
The Department of Health has estimated that nearly 30,000 people in the UK were affected. Many of the NHS patients were haemophiliacs who contracted diseases after being given blood from high risk donors. It has been estimated that more than 2,000 people have died as a result and some of those affected inadvertently passed on diseases to their partners and children.
Lord Penrose’s 1,800 page report, which cost an estimated £12 million and took six years to prepare, is a detailed factual account of events over near two decades and a forensic examination of medical evidence and the detail of therapy with blood products. Blame is not apportioned.
The inquiry concluded that nothing more could have been done to prevent the transmission of HIV. Lord Penrose also found that there were "few aspects in which matters could or should have been handled differently" and said the inquiry had to take into account the conditions that had prevailed at the time rather than judge by today's standards.
Scotland is the only part of the UK to hold an inquiry that has the power to force witnesses to give evidence. However, the BBC reports that the fact that this is a Scottish inquiry is a major limitation considering that the health policy before 1999 was controlled by Westminster and politicians based in England made many critical decisions.
Prime Minister, David Cameron, has apologised on behalf of the Government for what has been described as the worst NHS treatment disaster in history.
Although some of the victims have been eligible for government payments, the Government has refused to call this compensation and maintains it was not to blame for the disaster. It has been reported by the BBC that three men who contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood have begun legal action and it is expected that many more cases will follow.
One of the individuals affected, Gill Fyffe, tells her story after contracting hepatitis C in 1988 to The Telegraph - please click here to view the article.
At Penningtons Manches our clinical negligence team assists with cases concerning defective medical products and equipment. We hope the report published today provides at least some answers for the victims. For more information on product liability claims, please click here.