Progress in the NHS blood scandal

The seven-year-long blood contamination scandal finally lands an inquiry date. Leeds Hacks talks to the MP who campaigned for it.

The government have apologised for the contaminated blood scandal after a public inquiry was launched on Monday.

Diana Johnson, member of parliament for Hull North, secured the public inquiry into the NHS scandal after a seven-year battle. She told Leeds Hacks:

“The Contaminated Blood Scandal has been described as the biggest treatment disaster in the history of the NHS. Haemophiliacs and individuals needing blood transfusions through childbirth or routine surgery were given infected blood in the 1970s and 1980s. Infected blood had been bought from the USA where prisoners, drug users and others were selling their blood.”

“Lives wrecked”

She added: “It has taken over 40 years for a Public Inquiry to be established with terms of reference to find out exactly what had happened and the effect it has had on thousands of individuals and their families. There has never been compensation paid to people whose lives have been wrecked by contacting HIV and Hepatitis C.

“The Inquiry is hopefully an opportunity for the truth to be told and for those infected and affected to be properly compensated.”

 The contamination took place over more than two decades and infected over 5000 people. The NHS failed to inform patients on the risks of the imported blood which led to viruses being spread to partners and family members.
Graph showing the impact the contaminated blood had on the UK.

Graph showing the impact the contaminated blood had on the UK. Data from taintedblood.info

 

 The infected blood was used to treat haemophilia, a disorder that mainly affects boys and men.

Q: What is haemophilia? 

A: Haemophilia is a inherited genetic disorder which stops blood clots from forming. This means cuts and injuries will continue to bleed until treated, bruises will form a lot easier and there is a high risk of bleeding into joints and other body parts.

Q: How is haemophilia treated?

A: Haemophilia is caused by a missing protein which creates blood clotting. This protein is put back into the body by a blood plasma transfusion. Sufferers may have to have several transfusions to maintain a healthy blood plasma.

Q: How did the blood plasma become contaminated?

A: The UK had a shortage of blood donors so began to import blood from the US. The blood was taken from various places including prisons. The NHS failed to check the blood for blood-borne viruses and did not notice the risks associated with using the imported blood. They could not return to safer blood donation methods because of the blood donation shortage in the UK.

Q: When did they stop using the contaminated blood?

A: By the late 1990s the blood was heat-tested to remove any potential viruses but thousands of people had already been infected by this point.

Frequent blood transfusions were needed to ensure a healthy protein balance

Frequent blood transfusions were needed to ensure a healthy protein balance

The NHS continuously tested patients for viruses without their consent during this period but failed to inform any infected patients until several years later. This caused outrage because many of those affected missed out on vital treatment and infected partners and family members.

Lifelong damage

Jackie Britton told the BBC she needed a blood transfusion after she began haemorrhaging after childbirth. It was another 29 years before she realised the blood had been contaminated with hepatitis C. She now has to live with the damaging effects the contaminated blood has left on her life. Although modern medication has removed the virus from her system, life-long damage has already been made to her vital organs.

Haemophilia affects the blood cells and stops blood clots

Haemophilia affects the blood cells and stops blood clots

Evidence will be given in the public inquiry on the 30th of April 2019, allowing those affected by the contaminated blood to finally get some answers.

By Emily Coneron.

About the Author

student
This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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