Fight for justice for infected blood victims will go to Europe

A NORTH East campaigner last night vowed to use the Human Rights Act to fight the Government’s decision not to award compensation to victims of an infected blood scandal.

Carol Grayson

A NORTH East campaigner last night vowed to use the Human Rights Act to fight the Government’s decision not to award compensation to victims of an infected blood scandal.

Some 4,670 haemophiliacs who received blood transfusions in the 1970s and 1980s were infected with hepatitis C – with 1,243 of those also infected with HIV.

For years the NHS used imported blood from the US to treat haemophiliacs. It was often collected from paid “skid row” donors such as prison inmates who were more likely to have HIV and hepatitis. Nearly 2,000 people have died as a result of exposure to the tainted blood.

In 2000, The Journal launched its Bad Blood campaign which demand a public inquiry into how and why contaminated blood products were allowed into Britain.

Earlier this year Lord Archer of Sandwell issued a string of recommendations after a two-year independent inquiry into the scandal, branded “the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”.

He suggested a Government apology, a statutory advisory panel and compensation at least equal to that paid to patients in Ireland where those infected with HIV from contaminated blood received up to 101,000, and those who contracted hepatitis C were paid on average 853,636.

But yesterday Health Minister Dawn Primarolo announcing the Government’s response rejected campaigners’ demands for substantial compensation payments.

Ministers agreed that funding for two trusts set up for those infected with HIV through contaminated blood would be increased to allow annual payments of £12,800 to each infected person but they offered no extra cash for those infected with hepatitis C

The move outraged campaigners who have vowed to take their fight to Europe.

Carol Grayson, who lost her haemophiliac husband Peter Longstaff after he contracted HIV and hepatitis C, said the Government’s actions were “disgusting”.

The 49-year-old, of Jesmond, said: “I’m very, very angry that the Government has once again got away with it and not dealt with the issue.

“If you look at the payments that were received by the victims in Ireland, it’s just disgusting.

“Lord Archer’s report recommended we received the same payments as in Ireland but the Government just don’t want to pay that much money as there are more victims in the UK than Ireland.

“People with HIV will get a small top-up to the funds which already exist and people with hepatitis C, their widows and children, will get nothing, which is a disgrace.

“But the fight isn’t ending here – we’re absolutely not giving up because the Government has not learnt from its mistakes. We’re going to take it to Europe and challenge the decision under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act.

“The Government wouldn’t give us a public inquiry because they said the information was already in the public domain but we proved that was wrong. I think yesterday’s announcement just adds insult to injury.

“I’m planning to try and get a meeting with Bill Clinton to address the issue, which was happening on his doorstep all those years ago, and find out what happened.”

Lord Archer condemned the Government’s response as, “deeply disquieting”.

He said: “The Government response to the Archer Report is a faltering step that only compounds the anguish of the afflicted and bereaved.

“It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that humanitarian impulses have come a bad second to Treasury constraints.”

Campaigners are also pressing for urgent answers following the disclosure last week by Health Minister Lord Darzi that 802 haemophilia patients had received blood from batches containing a donation from a donor who later went on to develop variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). The potential threat was being discussed yesterday by the CJD Incidents Panel.

For previous stories on this issue, click the links below
Research prize for blood campaigner Carol Grayson
Journal's Bad Blood campaign praised
Report due on contaminated blood scandal
GMC u-turn in blood tests row

Bad Blood campaign

THE Bad Blood campaign was launched by The Journal in 2000.

We teamed up with Haemophilia Action UK, to demand a public inquiry into how and why contaminated blood products were allowed into Britain, a mistake which led to the deaths of 78 haemophiliacs in the North East.

Peter Longstaff, of Jesmond, Newcastle, won legal aid to fight a controversial waiver from the Department of Health which he signed in 1991.

It also revealed that the Blood Products Laboratory had advised doctors not to tell patients that blood products used in transfusions were feared to have been taken from a donor infected with CJD.

The campaign, run by reporter Louella Houldcroft, won a string of awards. In 2007, the Government announced an independent public inquiry into the treatment of haemophiliacs in the 1970s and 1980s, partly due to the Journal’s campaign.

In February, campaigners praised The Journal after an independent inquiry condemned the importation of infected blood to Britain, saying we were an instrumental factor

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