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‘Tainted blood’ campaigners boycott inquiry meeting with DH

More than 10 organisations launching a campaign against the government for the ‘tainted blood’ scandal have today refused to be involved with an official inquiry headed up by the Department of Health (DH).

The organisations have decided to boycott a meeting with the DH, where they were invited to discuss decisions on setting the remit of the inquiry. This is because they argue that it is inappropriate for the government to have any involvement in the inquiry.

The review is looking into a scandal which saw 2,400 people die in the 1970s and 80s after having transfusions from infected blood, giving people serious diseases like hepatitis C and AIDs.

Groups like Tainted Blood and the Contaminated Blood Campaign have accused the government of taking the blood from prisoners in the US.

“We do not believe that the DH should be allowed to direct or have any involvement into an investigation into themselves, other than giving evidence,” the statement from the 10 organisations read. “The handling of this inquiry must be immediately transferred elsewhere.”

Another campaign group, The Haemophilia Society also rejected the invitation to a meeting by DH. Its chief executive Liz Carroll penned an open letter saying that it was “impossible” for the society to attend whilst the DH was involved in the discussion.

Carroll said that it had to listen to its members, who were “horrified” with the idea that DH would be a part of the inquiry.  

“The key decisions about the purchase, production and treatment for people with bleeding disorders and blood safety were taken by DH officials and ministers,” the letter said.

“There is no reasonable argument for the same department that took these decisions to be involved in decisions about the inquiry. The whole inquiry will be seen by the affected community as biased, unfair and damaging.”

The society’s CEO also said it was “essential” that time was taken to decide the type and remit of the inquiry.

“To rush this will lead to flawed outcomes and another inquiry that is dammed by the affected community,” Caroll argued. “The Haemophilia Society will not attend a meeting to discuss the inquiry until we have confirmation from government that the DH will not be involved in deciding the powers or remit of the inquiry.”

“The affected community, campaigners and The Haemophilia Society will also need reasonable notice to enable us to prepare, research and consult on how the inquiry should be conducted as this is key to a successful and comprehensive review of all the evidence.”

A spokesperson for DH A Department of Health spokeswoman said it was absolutely committed to a thorough and transparent inquiry.

"To establish the best format and remit, we want to hear as many opinions as possible. Our door is open for anyone who wants to discuss the inquiry or raise any concerns."

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