Contaminated blood scandal: MP Catherine West calls for ‘truth’ over NHS disaster
- Credit: Archant
MP Catherine West has called for “individuals to be held to account” over the NHS contaminated blood disaster that left thousands of people infected with deadly HIV and hepatitis C.
The MP for Hornsey and Wood Green spoke during a backbench debate in the House of Commons today as MPs renewed calls for a “Hillsborough-style” inquiry into the scandal.
One of Ms West’s own constituents, Highgate musician and father Nick Hirsch, died in 2012 from hepatitis C (hep C) contracted from infected blood. He was aged 36 and had a 10-month-old daughter.
Some 315 patients at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead were also infected with one or both of the killer viruses through treatment with blood products from 1979 to 1985.
Ms West said it had become obvious that there was knowledge of contaminated blood long before action was taken over the unfolding disaster, citing claims by former health minister Lord David Owen that boxes of notes on the subject had been shredded.
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The MP called for permission to be given for others who knew more about the scandal to come forward.
She also said she wanted to find out if health professionals working at the time had decided to continue with the use of contaminated blood products for cost reasons and because they believed there was no alternative treatment.
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“It might not be right to hold a full-scale, lengthy inquiry, but there must be some way of holding to account the individuals who knew more,” she said.
“Now is the time to look at these two questions of trust and justice,” she added.
Former health minister Alistair Burt MP, who left office when Theresa May became prime minister over the summer, called for the government to treat the blood scandal like a natural disaster or banking collapse.
He said the “drip drip” approach to looking after victims was not working, and that money could be found at various times for big affairs such as natural disasters or a banking collapse.
“We have not been able to give this issue the same priority, and it cries out for it,” he added.
The government set out plans earlier this year for a reformed system of support for the thousands of people who were infected with HIV and hep C by blood products used by the NHS up until 1991, some sourced from high risk donors in America such as prisoners or drug addicts.
There are fears from some victims that they could be left worse off as a result of reforms.
MP campaigners also called today for the government to abandon plans to outsource the support scheme to a private company.
Mr Burt said it was important to have some “sensitivity” that the “profit motive” in the United States in selling blood in the first place was the “primary source of everything that flowed since”.
But health minister Nicola Blackwood said the government intended to issue the invitation to tender shortly, adding that she believed the “concerns about trust and the history of this situation will be well understood by all those involved in the design”.
Prime Minister Theresa May said she would consider setting up a Hillsborough-style independent panel to shed light on the NHS scandal during prime minister’s questions earlier this year.
In Scotland victims receive an annual average income of £27,000 a year – but in England the same victims will get as little as £3,500 annually.