CAMPAIGNERS last night praised The Journal after a public inquiry condemned the importation of infected blood to Britain.
A two-year investigation into the scandal with saw haemophiliacs exposed to hepatitis C and HIV yesterday criticised the Government for its handling of the “horrific human tragedy”.
And it called on Whitehall to pay more compensation to families of people infected by the blood – some of which was bought from prisoners in American jails.
Last night one of the leading campaigners praised The Journal’s Bad Blood campaign as a major factor in forcing the Government to hold a public inquiry.
But Carol Grayson said she was still waiting for an apology from the Government for what one medical expert described as “the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”.
Jesmond widow Ms Grayson, 49, lost her husband Peter Longstaff in 2005 at the age of 47 after having been given blood contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C. The former nurse said: “My husband never lost faith that this day would come.
“I’m pleased with most of the recommendations that are in the report, I do think they are very positive. Obviously one is setting up some kind of committee that will include representatives from the haemophiliac community working looking into the safety of blood, that’s very positive. We have to lobby the Government to implement these recommendations. I think that needs to be set very, very soon. They should not disappoint people who have had to wait 20 years for this.”
And yesterday, the result of a two-year inquiry, Lord Archer of Sandwell released his report condemning the “procrastination” that led to thousands of patients becoming infected with HIV and Hepatitis C from contaminated supplies.
He said that a public inquiry should have been held much earlier.
Much of the infected blood came from prisoners or “skid row” donors who were paid to donate and had a much higher risk of carrying a blood-borne virus. He said commercial interests appeared to have been given a higher priority than patient safety. He also criticised the government of the time for being slow to become self-sufficient with blood products. It would have been unlikely for UK-sourced treatment to come from such a population of donors.
Nearly 2,000 haemophiliacs have died as a result of exposure to the contaminated blood in what leading medical expert Lord Winston called “the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”.
The report added: “The haemophilia community feels that their plight has never been fully acknowledged or addressed. Commercial priorities should never again override the interests of public health.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We have great sympathy for the patients and families affected by contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s, and will study the findings of Lord Archer’s report in detail.” Hexham MP Peter Atkinson said: “The Journal has done a good job in highlighting the plight of these people.” The Conservative MP said there appeared to be a culture of “foot dragging” in Whitehall before mistakes were admitted to.
Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon, said: “If there has been negligence, then clearly there is responsibility on the Government to put it right.”
For previous stories about the issue click the links below
Report due on contaminated blood scandal
Vital role in securing inquiy
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. Last night Carol said: "The Journal played a vital role in securing the inquiry.
"When this was seen as a dead issue in the late 90s Louella Houldcroft took it up as an issue and challenged this when no-one else would look at this. It was then picked up by the nationals. This shows the importance of regional newspapers in campaigning."
The campaign, run by reporter Louella Houldcroft, won a string of awards.
Last night she said: "No one could have envisaged it would take so long to get a result. I think what struck me at the time was the strength of the evidence. Thousands of people had died as a result of treatment that was supposed to make them better and there was clear documentation about where it had come from. But despite the evidence no-one was listening to these patients and their families.
"What they needed most was answers and The Journal took up the campaign for a public inquiry in a bid to get those answers.
"Peter and Carol were a tremendous strength and without them the campaign wouldn't have gathered such momentum.
"It's sad that Peter could not be here to see this result."