The Department of Health (DoH) are currently the sponsoring department for the inquiry and are leading on the establishment of the inquiry including the consultation on its scope and form.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health Jackie Doyle-Price faced questions from MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday 20 July 2017 mainly focusing on the involvement of the Department for Health into the enquiry. Ms Doyle-Price told MPs that the government has made no final decision on the scope or format of the inquiry, or its leadership. However, she said that it is normal practice for public inquiries to be sponsored by the relevant department.
A meeting was also scheduled with those affected by the scandal on the morning of 20th July but was boycotted by many because of DoH involvement.
Emma Jones, partner at law firm Leigh Day representing over 300 victims of contaminated blood, said:
“Our clients did not want to attend meeting scheduled for 20th July because of DoH leading the meeting. The DoH is an implicated department and our clients do not have confidence in any DoH involvement.
“Whilst we accept this is the consultation stage, for our clients having the DoH leading at any stage is unacceptable. The whole process from the initial consultation stage until the end of the inquiry must be open and transparent and must be seen to be open, transparent and unbiased.
“Having DoH leading, even during the dialogue stage, will not achieve this. The whole process must have the total confidence of those affected from start to finish in order to provide a proper investigation into this scandal.
“It is vital that an independent government department is put in charge of the inquiry as soon as possible.”
The government announced that there would be a public inquiry into the NHS contaminated blood scandal on 11 July 2017. It has been reported that around 7,500 NHS patients were given blood products in the 1970s and 80s that were infected with hepatitis C and HIV which 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.
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).