What is the contaminated blood scandal?

How many people have been affected and what will the inquiry cover?

What was the contaminated blood scandal?

In the 1970s and 80s, thousands of people with haemophilia became infected with hepatitis C and HIV – the virus that leads to Aids – after receiving contaminated blood products from the NHS.

Patients, including those who suffered from the genetic disorder that affects the blood’s ability to clot, were given products imported from commercial organisations in the US. Among the paid donors were high-risk groups including prison inmates and injecting drug users.

How many people have been affected?

In 2015, a parliamentary report found about 7,500 patients had been infected by blood products.

While 4,800 haemophiliacs were infected with hepatitis C or HIV, nearly 3,000 people have died as a result of contamination. Patient support groups estimate victims continue to die at a rate of one every four days.

Others are thought to have been exposed to the tainted blood through transfusions or after childbirth.

Jenni Richards QC, counsel to the inquiry, has said the Hepatitis C Trust still receives calls from people who have only recently been diagnosed and thousands more people are potentially at risk but not aware they are infected.

Among the victims was 62-year-old Steve Dymond, who died of organ failure in December.

What will the inquiry cover?

The main inquiry began on Tuesday at Fleetbank House in central London and is expected to last up to three years. It will hear from people infected with HIV and hepatitis C through blood products and transfusions and from NHS and Department of Health officials.

The public inquiry is working its way through files and electronic records in 341 separate depositories where documents relating to the scandal are held. An inquiry into the scandal was first announced in July 2017.

Before the hearings, led by Sir Brian Langstaff, the government announced extra financial support for those affected by the scandal – taking the total to £75m from £46m.

More than 1,200 witness statements have been submitted to the inquiry.

What do victims want?

Victims and their relatives want to know why potential safety warnings about the products were ignored and why plans to make the UK able to supply its own blood products were scrapped.

They also want to know why patient records and documents seem to have been lost or destroyed.

Victims have also called on the government to increase mass screening for hepatitis C to prevent further deaths.

Contributor

Amy Walker

The GuardianTramp

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