Contaminated blood probe to report

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Published: Wednesday 25th March 2015 by The News Editor

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A comprehensive inquiry into how people were infected with hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood will publish its findings today.

Hundreds of people in Scotland, many of whom were haemophiliac patients, were given the contaminated blood and blood products by the NHS in the 1970s and 1980s.

Following demands from campaign groups, an independent public inquiry was set up by the Scottish Government to investigate what went wrong and what lessons could be learned.

The inquiry, chaired by Lord Penrose, got under way six years ago and went on to hear evidence from 60 witnesses over 89 days.

Its full findings, expected to run over a number of volumes, will be revealed at an event in Edinburgh today.

Lord Penrose himself is unable to attend the launch as he is said to be seriously ill in hospital.

Maria McCann, secretary to the inquiry, will deliver a statement on his behalf.

The Penrose Inquiry, which has cost millions of pounds, came to an end in March 2012. It had been due to report the following year but suffered delays along the way.

The inquiry’s remit was to investigate how the NHS collected, treated and supplied blood.

Lord Penrose also scrutinised what patients were told, how they were monitored and why patients became infected.

The inquiry was further tasked with identifying any lessons and implications for the future, and making recommendations, but it does not deal with the issue of compensation.

The inquiry is the most comprehensive ever conducted anywhere in the UK into what campaigners have dubbed “the contaminated blood disaster”.

Many of those infected were children at the time and it is feared that hundreds have already died since receiving the contaminated products.

The charity Haemophilia Scotland estimates that more than 500 families in Scotland have either lost a loved one to the disaster or are living with the consequences of what happened.

Chairman Bill Wright has compared the scale of the tragedy to any transport or football stadium disaster, saying he believes at least 5,000 people could have been infected across Britain.

He said: “In Scotland alone we estimate there are over 200 deaths. If you multiply that up to the UK then it gives you an idea of the scale of the catastrophe. There is a huge disaster right across Britain.”

Interested parties are expected to travel from all over Scotland, and further afield, for the launch event at the National Museum of Scotland.

The UK Government is expected to issue a response to the report following its publication.

The Scottish Government is also expected to respond today ahead of a ministerial statement on the Penrose Inquiry in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.

The campaign group TaintedBlood has said a large group of its members will be in Edinburgh for the launch.

It will also have a group delivering flowers, in memory of the victims, to the UK Department of Health.

The group said that although the Penrose Inquiry focuses on Scottish events and Scottish patients, the outcome is “critically important” for people south of the border, since all the events that Lord Penrose is investigating took place before devolution, under a Westminster government.

When the publication date was previously announced, Scotland’s Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government instigated the Penrose Inquiry because we are determined to find out exactly what went wrong and what can be done in the future to ensure it can never happen again.

“Significant improvements have been made to NHS processes since these infections occurred.

“However, I await Lord Penrose’s final report with great interest.

“This is an extremely complex and detailed subject matter, and I am confident that Lord Penrose’s final recommendations will be invaluable to our health service as we continue to raise the standard of patient care in Scotland.”

Published: Wednesday 25th March 2015 by The News Editor

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