‘Poison NHS blood killed my son’: Mother speaks out over scandal that wrecked lives

A mother has spoken of the horrific health scandal that killed her adored son and has left her family – and thousands of others – fighting for justice.

Three years ago Della Hirsch, the sister of former Hornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone, buried her musician son Nick in Highgate Cemetery after having watched his downward health spiral during painful treatment for the virus hepatitis C (hep C).

Nick was just 36 and left behind his partner of 12 years and a daughter of 10 months.

Like an estimated 7,000 people UK-wide, he had been treated with contaminated blood and blood products supplied by the NHS up until 1991.

In a deadly oversight, blood products made from high risk donors, such as drug addicts, prisoners and prostitutes, were given to patients – many of them haemophiliacs.

In a special report over the next four weeks the Ham&High will reveal the devastating effects of the tainted blood scandal and the growing campaign to deliver justice for the victims.

Della, 71, who lives in Highgate, said: “It’s bad enough when you get things that life throws at you, but when you’re given it by your government, by your National Health Service, and then for 30 years they do nothing about it, except talk and offer platitudes and burn documents. They should admit ‘We did it wrong, we shouldn’t have done this’. An apology is not important for us now but a proper acknowledgement and settlement for the families is.”

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Nick was one of thousands of haemophiliacs who contracted HIV or hep C, or both, after being treated with contaminated blood products by the NHS in the 1970s and ’80s.

The British government continued to import these products from America even after being warned they carried potentially life-threatening viruses, yet patients were not told of the risks.

Of the 7,000 people given contaminated blood products, some through routine transfusions, only an estimated 6,000 know it. Some 2,000 people have died.

Former British Airways flight attendant Mark Ward, 46, was one of 315 haemophilia patients infected at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. At age 14 he was told he had HIV, and later that he had hep C and may also have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), known as ‘mad cow disease’.

In terms of death toll, the contaminated blood scandal is the 15th largest peacetime disaster in British history. Despite this a full government-led inquiry has never been held in this country.

See next week’s Ham&High: Left in poverty and made to beg for support - The funds that are “unfit for purpose”