Lawyers representing over 300 victims of the NHS contaminated blood scandal have welcomed the inquiry into the issue but have urged the Government to ensure all those affected will be covered by the terms of reference and that lessons are learned from the painstaking work done by the Hillsborough Independent Panel which uncovered the truth about the cover-up and what had prevented the first inquest getting to the truth.
It has been reported that around 7,500 NHS patients were given blood products that were infected with hepatitis C and HIV that had been imported from abroad. It is thought that at least 2,400 have died as a result.
Many of those given the blood were haemophiliacs, however, it was also given to others who needed transfusions such as car crash victims.
It has been reported that the families of those who died as a result of the contaminated blood will be consulted on what for the inquiry will take. The full terms of reference are yet to be announced by the Government.
Emma Jones, of law firm Leigh Day, who represents more than 300 people who were given contaminated blood, said:
“While we very much welcome the inquiry announced today by the Government but it is crucial that the terms of reference are wide enough to include all those who have been affected by this issue and that the Inquiry learns the lessons from past government cover ups.
“Our clients would welcome the opportunity to work with the Government on the terms of reference to ensure they are included in the inquiry so that they can have their voices heard and hopefully get some answers to the many questions that they have.
“While it is only right that families who have lost loved ones are given the chance to help shape the enquiry it is also crucial that those who were themselves given the contaminated blood and are still living with the consequences of this disaster are also consulted.”
The group of over 300 people represented by Leigh Day who were given the contaminated blood are challenging the government regarding the legality of the discretionary payment scheme for those given contaminated blood and the inequality between payments given to those who contracted HIV and those who contracted Hepatitis C (HCV).
Ms Jones added that the inquiry should not be used by the Government as an excuse to delay the existing legal cases which are seeking compensation for the systematic discrimination that has occurred against individuals who contracted HCV from NHS contaminated blood.