Contaminated blood: MP alleges ‘cover-up’ over scandal that ruined lives in Hampstead and Highgate
- Credit: Various
A former health secretary has presented evidence of “deliberate, provable acts of cover-up” in the contaminated blood scandal and demanded a Hillsborough-style inquiry into the tragedy.
Labour’s Andy Burnham outlined allegations of inappropriate treatment given to patients, tests done on people without their knowledge, and results being withheld for several years, speaking in the Commons.
He labelled these “criminal acts” and said the scandal had “parallels” with the Hillsborough tragedy saying both involved “an orchestrated campaign to prevent the truth from being told”.
Mr Burnham told the Commons today he will approach police if a new inquiry is not established before Parliament breaks in July.
“If the government does not set up a Hillsborough-style inquiry by the time the House rises for the summer recess, then I will refer my evidence to the police and I will request that investigation,” he said.
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Thousands of deaths have been linked to the contaminated blood scandal, in which haemophiliacs and others were infected with hepatitis C and HIV from blood products used by the NHS up until 1991.
The victims include 315 who were infected at the Royal Free Hospital’s haemophilia unit in Hampstead.
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Former British Airways cabin attendant Mark Ward was told in a corridor at the hospital that he had been infected with the deadly HIV virus as a result of treatment with killer NHS blood products at the age of 14. He continues to struggle with debilitating health problems to this day.
Highgate musician and father Nick Hirsch, the nephew of former Hornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone, died aged 36 in 2012 from hep C he had contracted from blood products to treat haemophilia.
Speaking during an adjournment debate, Mr Burnham said the cases he raised revealed “deliberate, provable acts of cover-up”.
He described the example of one man infected with hep C who was labelled an alcoholic in medical notes despite his widow saying he drank very little alcohol.
Mr Burnham said there was a “very disturbing echo” with Hillsborough, in that victims of negligence by the state were “suddenly the victims of smears perpetrated by those working on behalf of public bodies”.
The MP later mentioned two documents, including a 1975, letter that warned about new Factor VIII blood clotting products coming on to the market to treat haemophiliacs.
He noted: “It said in relation to one particular product... ‘The source blood is 100 per cent from skid row derelicts’ in his words. He is writing to warn the British government about blood products that have been used.”
Health minister Nicola Blackwood resisted calls for a fresh inquiry.
She said thousands of documents had been released by the Department of Health in relation to the scandal, while two reviews had already been carried out by Lord Archer and Lord Penrose.
“It does seem hard to understand how an independent panel would add to current knowledge about how infections happened, or the steps taken to deal with this problem,” she said.
Campaign group Tainted Blood applauded Mr Burnham MP saying his speech vindicated its decades-long campaign for justice.
Chairman Andrew Evans said: “We fully support Mr Burnham’s call for all parties to commit to manifesto pledges promising to instigate a Hillsborough-style panel, with the aim of bringing to light the full truth about this scandal and the crimes committed.”
Additional reporting by Richard Wheeler and Jon Vale of Press Association