Ken Clarke's anger at 'pointless' Infected Blood Inquiry questions
- Credit: PA
Ken Clarke called lines of questioning "pointless" and bristled at suggestions the contaminated blood scandal could have been avoided by Department of Health (DHSS) action in the 1980s, at the ongoing Infected Blood Inquiry.
Lord Clarke was a health minister from 1982 to 1985, before becoming health secretary in 1988.
At the independent inquiry – led by Sir Brian Langstaff – he was asked about the process which led to the production of leaflets across 1983 an 1984 which warned "high risk" blood donors to avoid giving blood due to the risk of passing on killer viruses.
He said he did "realise it was a strong possibility" that using blood from a single person with AIDS would put hundreds at risk.
Lord Clarke said – as some clinicians have previously argued in evidence – that to stop using imported blood products would have been risky.
"But we could have killed quite a lot of people if we'd suddenly caused a tremendous shortage of blood donations."
Many haemophiliacs have contested this, saying there were treatments available before the blood factor products were invented.
Reading documents presented to him, Lord Clarke said he had "never heard" of cryoprecipitate – the main, safer but less convenient, blood clotting treatment with haemophiliacs until the mid-1970s.
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The contaminated blood scandal saw thousands – including many haemophiliacs treated at the Royal Free – given blood products infected with lethal viruses.
Lord Clarke said he "intervened" when it came to the leaflets as he was "particularly concerned" about putting off blood donors or patients losing confidence in the transfusion system.
He said he "didn’t want to feed homophobia". Delays to the production of the leaflets have been described by previous witnesses as "unconscionable".
Referring specifically to a month in late 1984 which saw an urgent memo not acted on by his private office , Lord Clarke said: "If I contributed [...] I accept my share in that."
Lord Clarke appeared to become irritated with the level of detail being questioned by Ms Richards.
The chairman intervened, saying it was up for him to “ultimately determine” what questions were relevant.
Afterwards, former Royal Free patient Mark Ward, who tweeted: "Victims are outraged at the derogatory language used and a total lack of compassion for those impacted by this tragedy."
Jason Evans of the Factor 8 Campaign added: "Our community has suffered enough, and his disgraceful attitude today has only added to that."
Lord Clarke's evidence continues until July 29.