Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West: Time for justice for blood scandal families
PUBLISHED: 13:45 11 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:45 11 January 2018
Those who have suffered due to the contaminated blood scandal will have to wait for justice even longer.
The victims deserve clarity which they have not received in all the decades of seeking justice from successive governments who have obfuscated and denied justice to so many. Nearly 7,500 people, many of whom suffered from haemophilia, were given blood products infected with hepatitis C and HIV back in the 1970s and 80s. At least 2,400 people died as a result of the biggest ever NHS scandal.
Yet, the Conservative Government has failed to appoint a chair for the inquiry, instead kicking it into the long grass.
“The government committed to making an announcement regarding the chair of the inquiry before Christmas,” Prime Minister Theresa May said. “We are therefore announcing today our intention to appoint a judge to chair the inquiry.” But given no chair has been appointed, it added that a further announcement on this is promised “in the New Year”.
This comes six months after announcing the inquiry and after a spectrum of issus with the consultation process.
For the thousands of people affected by the trauma of this scandal, it is simply not good enough. The Government must engage with those affected and offer support and appoint a chair as a matter of urgency.
With constituents of my own knowing the scale of the trauma, In July I welcomed the Prime Minister’s pledge the Cabinet Office will oversee the investigation after family members warned against the involvement of the Department of Health, which would have in effect been investigating itself.
But, I share the concerns of Factor 8, a campaign group representing victims and families affected by the contaminated blood, who think that we have waited far too long for an announcement short on details.
“We find ourselves in despair that a chair has still not been appointed and that the inquiry is still not established,” they said back in November. We remain no closer.
Meanwhile, in a recent letter from Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Under-Secretary of State for Health, announced a number of positive commitments. However, victims are still living without a clear and unequivocal commitment that nobody will be worse off as a result of changes to discretionary support taking effect this April.
This comes at the same time Government officials were forced to back down and apologise for using a discredited report into the scandal for too long, and after it was revealed in October that senior ministers in the 1987 Conservative Government pursued a deliberate policy of not accepting any responsibility for allowing the contaminated blood products to be given to haemophiliacs, amounting to a deliberate attempt to deny the truth to victims.
Over and over again, there has been failure for people hit by the biggest disaster in the NHS’ history, with the Government unlikely to have ever committed to an inquiry had there not been years of campaigning by those affected.
The Prime Minister said back in July: “We have been absolutely clear of our determination to establish what happened in relation to the contaminated blood scandal of the 1970s and 1980s and to work with the families of those affected, and we are now moving forward with that process.”
The time has come to step up and deliver.