Following the publication of the Penrose Inquiry’s final report in March last year, SIBF’s Convener, Philip Dolan, relayed his thoughts to the Daily Mail and the column that was published the day after is presented here in its entirety.
“On a spring day that seems far, far too long ago now, I stated publicly that the Penrose Inquiry would end in a whitewash. It gives me absolutely no pleasure whatsoever today to tell you that my prediction was completely, tragically accurate, I knew it would be from the moment I heard Lord Penrose’s opening remark; ‘This inquiry is funded by NHS Scotland’.
We have since learned it cost in the region of £11 million. Every pound spent on that Inquiry has, therefore, been at the expense of medical care. Every doctor who attended the inquiry has been divested from the care of their patients. But most important of all, I knew then, and nothing has disabused me of the belief that, the questions which I, and many others, have for years demanded answers to, are still not answered.
Now, six years later, I not only regard that as a whitewash – but a betrayal of everyone who has, like me, suffered, some of them for decades, from not only the illnesses caused by contaminated blood but from stigmas associated with them.
Those who, like me contracted hepatitis C suffer from an illness perceived to affect drug addicts.
Those who are HIV as a result of the blood given to them between 1970 and 1991 face similar disapprobation.
At this moment, my anger and disappointment go beyond words. Today, I will have a meeting with the Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison and that is what I will be telling her. I will tell her not only on behalf of myself, but the 478 people in Scotland who acquired hepatitis C from blood product therapy, the 2,500 who contracted the virus from transfusions and the 60 patients who acquired the HIV virus from contaminated blood, 18 of them from transfusions.
Even now, after witnessing the debacle that was the Penrose Inquiry announcement, I am at a loss for words. It was a dreadful shock and I believe it was shared by everyone in the auditorium.
Having taken years and millions of pounds to reach this point and then to provide only one recommendation is remarkable, ridiculous and embarrassing, to say the least.
We were all hoping for so much, so much more than this. After all, an administrator could have produced this so-called ‘report’, which runs to 1,800 pages and tells us nothing. Now was the time for decisive action to help those forgotten people before they die from a disease which was given to them by their NHS. They had been waiting for 30 years for some answers – and that is 30 years too long. They will tragically have to wait even longer.
This contaminated blood disaster is a national disgrace that has destroyed the lives of so many people and their families. There was an obvious needs deficit which had to be addressed. This so-called report has failed to do that.
We wanted the simple, plain truth. We wanted an apology. We expected to establish finally how this national tragedy occurred in the first place. We wanted to learn of financial compensation for those so terribly affected. What did we get? The promise of blood tests for those who believe they may have been contaminated.
Where was the beginning of rebuilding the trust between patients and clinicians, so many of whom failed even to inform those is their care that they had been infected?
During the process, Lord Penrose allowed only six people to give evidence, while 80 had applied to be core participants. Why were more doctors than patients allowed to speak, a move which leaves a big question?
People may have thought something positive was going to come when this report was published. From the beginning, I had no faith in that happening. Now, sadly, I have been proved right.
It was beyond time for decisive action to address a national disgrace – a decisive action that is far from this inquiry announcement.
Where does that leave people like me? People who have been searching for the truth, to my case since the 1978.
I was born a haemophiliac, an inherited condition which requires careful medical treatment. For example, having a tooth pulled is a medical procedure which can last can last six weeks and require the use of blood products.
At some point in the 1970s, I do not know precisely when, I was given infected blood during a dental procedure. It was not until 1978, when I was active in the fight, that I learned, I had what they then called non-A, non-B hepatitis. It would be another 13 years before it was officially confirmed that I had hepatitis C. Withholding that information for so long in my ease, and that of so many others, was a betrayal which is very difficult to accept or get over.
I wanted answers yesterday. Thirty years on, I and so many others still do not have any – and that is the greatest betrayal of all.”
Philip Dolan MBE