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11.07.17

Inquiry launched into ‘appalling injustice’ of tainted blood case

An inquiry will be launched into the ‘tainted blood’ scandal that saw thousands of people infected with hepatitis C and HIV after receiving contaminated blood transfusions in the 1970s and 80s.

A spokesman for Theresa May today said that her and the health secretary Jeremy Hunt had met with MPs on Tuesday to announce the need for a full review of the scandal.

It follows years of campaigning by backbenchers and pressure groups like Tainted Blood to force the government to take action and review the problem.

In 2015, a parliamentary report by the APPG found that around 7,500 people had been infected with imported blood products, of which 2,400 people died from infections related to their transfusion.

Many of the patients were being treated for conditions like haemophilia, an inherited bleeding disorder. These patients need regular treatment with a clotting agent Factor VIII which is made from donated blood. However, the blood that was imported turned out to be infected, and could have come from donors like prison inmates in the US, who sold their blood.

“Jeremy Hunt said that 2,400 people had died and it was necessary to establish the causes of this appalling injustice,” May’s spokesman said.

An emergency debate had been on the cards for later on Tuesday which was granted by the speaker to Diana Johnson, a Labour MP who has campaigned on the tainted blood issue in the past.

“It is a tragedy that has caused immeasurable hardship and pain for all those affected and a full inquiry to establish the truth of what happened is the right course of action to take,” the prime minister’s spokesman added. “It is going to be a wide-ranging inquiry.”

The No. 10 spokesman said that the families of victims would be consulted to decide on whether the inquiry would be a more private judge-led statutory inquiry or a more public independent panel.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had strong opinions about what form the review should take, as he said it needed to be a: “broad, public, inquisitive inquiry”.

“Two thousand four hundred people died as a result of this contaminated blood, and it’s caused unbelievable stress to many, many more people,” the Islington North MP said. “It was obviously a serious systemic failure. I think we need the strongest possible inquiry that can, if necessary, lead to prosecution actions as a result, but above all get to the bottom of it.”

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