Party leaders in joint call for NHS contaminated blood inquiry

Blood testing Image copyright Science Photo Library

There should be an inquiry into the use of NHS contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s, six party leaders in the Commons have said in a letter.

Leaders of parties including Labour and the DUP told the PM victims "have a right to know what went wrong".

At least 2,400 people are thought to have died after being given NHS blood products infected with hepatitis C and HIV.

Last week, Theresa May said ministers "will look at any new evidence".

The letter to Mrs May was also signed by the leaders of the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party.

The six called for the establishment of an inquiry with the power to compel all those involved in the scandal to participate.

"We believe those affected have a right to know what went wrong and why," the leaders said.

"Amongst many other considerations, it is alleged that victims' medical details were tampered with to hide the cause of their infections," the letter added.

What is the blood scandal?

  • Patients with haemophilia and others in the UK were treated with NHS blood products in the 1970s and 1980s
  • Some were treated with supplies of the clotting agent Factor VIII, which was imported from the US
  • Much of the plasma used to make the product came from donors, including US prison inmates who sold their blood
  • Some of it turned out to be infected with HIV and hepatitis C
  • At least 2,400 people are thought to have died as a result of receiving contaminated blood products
  • There are allegations of a cover-up and claims that patients were not told of the risks

It said there were also allegations that documents relating to the scandal were destroyed by Department of Health officials "as part of a cover-up" and that patients were not told of the risks.

The letter added that contaminated products were "not removed from the blood supply once the dangers became known".

It was signed by Labour's Jeremy Corbyn; Ian Blackford, the leader of the SNP group in the Commons; Lib Dem leader Tim Farron; Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts and Green co-leader Caroline Lucas.

The letter was also signed by the DUP's leader at Westminster Nigel Dodds - whose MPs the prime minister relies on to support her minority government.

Last week, answering a question at prime minister's questions, Mrs May called for anyone with "any further information" to pass it to ministers "so they can properly investigate it".

Health ministers have previously resisted calls for a fresh inquiry into contaminated blood, which has already been subject to two official reviews.

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Media captionThree brothers died as a result of blood contamination

Responding to the letter, Liz Carroll, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said victims had been seeking answers "for decades".

"The government have said that no liability has been shown, however there has never been an inquiry with a remit to investigate and challenge this claim."

She called for Mrs May to act "swiftly to right this historic wrong".

A Department of Health spokesman said it had increased the amount of money to victims to "record levels" since 2016.

"We recognise the importance of full transparency, which is why we have published all the information we hold on blood safety from the relevant period, between 1970 to 1995.

"We will carefully consider any new or emerging evidence before deciding on next steps."

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