Last of infected blood victims’ evidence heard in ‘significant milestone’

Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Chairman Sir Brian Langstaff
Chairman Sir Brian Langstaff

The Infected Blood Inquiry has reached a “significant milestone” after the last of the oral evidence from victims of the scandal was heard.

Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

The inquiry, which was announced by then-prime minister Theresa May in 2017 and began the following year, is due to conclude next year.

After hearing about the experiences of people recently diagnosed with hepatitis C on Friday, chairman Sir Brian Langstaff said: “We’ve reached another significant milestone for this inquiry.”

During the inquiry, 230 people who have been infected or affected have given evidence in person while around 3,500 have given written statements or have spoken about what happened to them.

The fiasco occurred after the UK struggled to keep up with demand for treatments tackling the blood-clotting condition haemophilia and other bleeding disorders, and began importing infected products from overseas.

About 2,400 people died in what has been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

Sir Brian said: “I promised from the outset that this inquiry would begin and end its oral evidence about what happened and why with a testimony of people infected and affected, that promise has been honoured.

“In my view, that has proved to be the right thing to do for this inquiry and no-one who’s heard the evidence could fail to appreciate the importance of what we’ve heard.”

Addressing those who have given evidence, he went on: “I’d like to recognise you for the contributions and to thank those who have enabled them to be made.

“Each of you has helped to place another piece in the jigsaw puzzle about what happened and why.

“Sometimes with testimony that has cast light where no other documents or witnesses are available and often by providing depth and definition on experiences common to far too many families across the four countries of the United Kingdom.”

He was met with applause from those in the public gallery after thanking them for their attendance throughout the proceedings.

The inquiry has heard emotional evidence from patients and their families who described being kept in the dark about the risk of HIV infection among haemophiliac patients, having to keep their diagnoses private through fear of vilification at the time of the Aids crisis, and living with the physical effects of HIV.

Others accused the Government of a cover-up amid allegations of inappropriate treatment given to patients, tests being done on people without their knowledge, and the results being withheld for several years.

On Friday, the inquiry heard from Wendy Woods, who was diagnosed with hepatitis C 38 years after being infected through a contaminated blood transfusion while giving birth in 1981.

She said: “I haven’t got a lot of faith in doctors really and, truly, if I go to the doctors now I don’t go away feeling confident.”

Robert Ellinor, who had surgery as a child in 1973 which required blood transfusions, before being diagnosed with the virus in 2017 told of losing a “ridiculous” amount of weight.

Two anonymous witnesses also gave evidence.

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