Following on from Andy Burnham’s Commons speech, the BBC has commissioned a Panorama special on the continuing disclosure of facts. BBC News and others (e.g. Daily Mail) provide synopses of the programme details before airing of the Panorama programme. The 1 hour programme does not air in Scotland until 11.30pm on Wednesday 10th May 2017 on BBC1. If you have cable/satellite TV you should be able to access the English feed from 9pm on your system (e.g. Virgin channel 861). Alternatively you should be able to watch the programme as it airs live from 9pm on the BBC iPlayer.
There are growing calls outside of Scotland for the UK Government to initiate a Public Inquiry into the Contaminated Blood Disaster. The Scottish Government set-up its own ‘Penrose Inquiry’ which reported in late March of 2015, to much malign and criticism: it cost £12.1 million and yielded a single obvious recommendation and many saw it as an establishment whitewash. It did however produce a large amount of data that is now in the public domain.
Many of the highlighted cases below illustrate the effects of HIV virus on haemophiliacs. Unfortunately some of the media soundbites (e.g.used by Victoria Derbyshire in her opening piece) do not correctly disclose that blood transfusions for non-haemophiliacs also were contaminated, and passed-on HIV/HCV to blood transfusion patients, who constitute the majority of people infected from NHS blood or blood products.
It has been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS. More than 2,000 people died and thousands more were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C after being treated with contaminated blood products. All the victims were infected over 25 years ago, but even now new cases are still being diagnosed. Survivors and their families are trying once more to persuade the government to hold a UK public inquiry.
Panorama examines recently released documents, and asks if the government could have done more to save lives. The film hears the heartbreaking testimony of some of the victims and their families and explores the dilemmas of doctors who had to carry on treating their patients through the unfolding crisis [note: it will be interesting to find out what certain doctors knew, when they knew it and to what extent they publicly disclosed their knoweledge/beliefs at the time and if there was pressure put to bear on their careers].
Now in what is understood to be the first case of its kind, Jason is taking legal action against the government for its role in his father’s death.
More than 2,000 people – mostly haemophiliacs – have died after being infected with HIV and hepatitis C through blood treatments.
The victims were infected over 25 years ago, in what has been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS. But even now new cases are still being diagnosed.
BBC Panorama has spoken to Jason and some of the other families affected.
“My first memory of my dad is the last time I ever saw him,” says Jason Evans. “It was my birthday, I was four years old.”
Six weeks later, his father Jonathan died. He was 31 years old.
Jonathan Evans was one of many people to have been given a treatment known as Factor VIII.
Made in huge vats from the blood plasma of thousands of people it meant if just one donation was infected with a virus, it could contaminate the whole batch.
In England and Wales, the NHS relied on blood products from the US, but as the Aids crisis unfolded, in 1983 newspapers had begun asking questions about the safety of American blood products.
Jason recently discovered that in late 1984 – his father had raised concerns with his doctors about Factor VIII but he says he was told “there was nothing to worry about, this is sensationalism and not to pay attention to it. And he trusted his doctor”.
“I think the moment there was a suspicion the Aids virus may be in these products, patients should have been given the choice of whether they wanted to take that gamble and play Russian roulette with their life,” Jason says.
Jason is now suing the government for negligence and a breach of statutory duty for “their role in this scandal that ultimately led to infecting my father with HIV for a product they knew to be dangerous”.
Des Collins of Collins Solicitors, acting for Jason, says: “This will be the first direct challenge of its type and throughout, our aim will be to support and represent families affected by this scandal.”
Two inquiries have been carried out and, in 2015, the then Prime Minster David Cameron apologised to thousands of victims.
The current government has resisted calls for a fresh inquiry but last year it announced more money would be available to those affected by the scandal.
Colin was born with haemophilia – but it was the treatment he was given that killed him.
In June 1983, eight weeks before he was first treated, a letter was sent out to haemophilia centres recommending children should be treated with NHS concentrates, not US Factor VIII.
But the guidelines were not followed and Colin was given his first dose of American concentrate shortly before his first birthday. His parents still do not know why.
The couple were eventually told in a hospital corridor their son had tested positive for HIV.
“They said: ‘Oh, Colin’s tested positive for HIV’. We didn’t even know what it was really,” Mr Smith says.
The couple say they became known as “the Aids family” and were forced to move. “It was written on the side of the house… just ‘AIDS’ in big capital letters.”
“Towards the end, we were picking up our son in sheepskin because we’d hurt him – he’d lost so much weight,” Mrs Smith says.
They want the government to be held to account.
“Who’s to blame? Are they stupid or just incompetent? It’s one or the other isn’t it? It’s somebody’s fault,” she says.
The couple visit their son’s grave twice a week.
“I miss him so much some days… He could have lived a normal life. Such a lovely little boy. Just so unnecessary.”
In 2015, Michelle Tolley was told she had hepatitis C.
In 1987, she had been given a blood transfusion after haemorrhaging when she gave birth to her first child, and again after giving birth to twins in 1991.
“I was like ‘no, no, no… you’re telling me I’ve had hepatitis C for 28 years?’ Growing silently – because they call it the silent killer,” she told Panorama.
The NHS had run a campaign to encourage people who might have been given contaminated blood to get tested.
“I went along to my GP at the time to inquire, just to be told ‘don’t be silly, you won’t have that’. It made me feel like a silly little child, that was just wasting somebody’s time,” she says.
Hepatitis C gave Michelle cirrhosis of the liver – which can cause cancer.
“I get angry days – really, really angry where I feel like I’m being deprived of my life,” she says. “And I’m frightened I’m going to die.”
Watch Panorama – Contaminated Blood: The Search for Truth on Wednesday 10 May at 21:00 BST on BBC One and afterwards on BBC iPlayer.
Victims of the tainted blood scandal could sue the Government after evidence emerged of a cover-up.
Documents suggest officials knew the blood products were harmful – yet continued to allow them to be given to patients.
Thousands of sufferers of the blood clotting disorder haemophilia were given infected products on the NHS in the 1970s and 1980s.
Jason Evans, 27, whose father Jonathan died in 1993 after being given HIV-infected products
The supply was contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C, having been donated by prisoners, drug addicts and prostitutes seeking cash.
More than 2,000 patients died and many others have been left with serious illnesses. Documents uncovered by the son of one of the victims suggest that officials were aware the products were high-risk as early as 1983. Jason Evans, 27, whose father Jonathan died in 1993 after being given HIV-infected products, has spent the past year trawling freedom of information responses and official archives.
One of the most damning pieces of evidence is a memo of a meeting of senior officials at the Department of Health in July 1983. They agree there is a particularly high risk from products bought from New York and Los Angeles.
Mr Evans, a marketing consultant from Coventry, uncovered a letter written by Joseph Smith, then director of the National Institute of Biological Standards Control to a senior doctor who was also at the meeting.
It reads: ‘I ask that the recommendations remain confidential largely because of the commercial implications.’
Another document reveals that the Government was warned the products were harmful by the Council of Europe as early as June 1983. Yet officials continued allowing them to be used in the NHS until mid-1985.
Jason Evans as a yound boy with father Jonathan who died in 1993 after being given HIV-infected products
There is evidence of a cosy relationship between some of the doctors prescribing the blood products and the drug firms supplying them.
One, who was based at the Newcastle Royal Infirmary, was paid consultancy fees and sponsored for research by the manufacturer Baxter. Other records show that drugs giants donated to the Haemophilia Society.
Mr Evans is preparing a civil claim of negligence and breach of statutory duty against the Department of Health and other organisations who may have been involved in the cover-up. If he is successful, it would pave the way for thousands of victims and families to launch similar compensation cases.
His evidence will be featured in a BBC Panorama documentary to be screened tonight. Mr Evans said: ‘The Government knew for sure these products would infect people and they didn’t tell anybody.
‘It could be an extremely important case. If successful we’ll set a precedent. My first memory of my dad is the last time I ever saw him.
‘It was my birthday, I was four years old and I remember walking into the room and he was on a bed. I remember looking at him but not really understanding what was happening.’ The products bought from the US contained plasma that enables the blood to clot and act as a treatment for haemophiliacs.
But many samples had been taken from high-risk donors. Dr Brian Colvin, who was the director of the haemophilia centre at the Royal London Hospital from 1977 to 2007, said: ‘We understood there were risks. But what we didn’t understand was the magnitude of what was about to happen.’
He said haemophilia care would have collapsed had the products been withdrawn.
Dr Mark Winter, who directed the Kent Haemophilia Centre from 1983 to 2010, said very difficult decisions had to be made.
‘You don’t go into medicine and train to be a doctor to harm people,’ he said.
‘In my case the treatment I gave not only didn’t help, it actually killed patients. It was absolutely desperate to see a group of people who were being harmed by their treatment.’
He said without the treatment, many haemophiliacs could have died. When Dr Winter’s patients were tested for HIV, 30 out of 31 tested positive.
Des Collins, a solicitor who is representing victims and families, said the actions of the Government were shameful. ‘Not only did they allow these patients to continue being treated, they are now refusing to own up to what has happened,’ he said.
Last month former health secretary Andy Burnham called for a public inquiry. He said separate evidence had come to light suggesting doctors and public officials had been involved in a criminal cover-up.