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Contaminated Blood Scandal Victims Will Now Sue Government

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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Over 500 victims of the NHS contaminated blood scandal have been given leave to seek compensation from the government[1].

The claimants are a mix of survivors and relatives of those who died after being given infected blood products.  More than 2,400 patients are estimated to have died from receiving contaminated blood in the 1970s and 80s.

The background to the contaminated blood scandal

In the 1970s and 1980s, a large proportion of blood products supplied to patients by the NHS were contaminated with HIV or Hepatitis C

The risk that mass-pooled blood products, particularly that which had come from America, were contaminated, was known as far back as the 1950s.  However, events became more serious with the arrival of the HIV virus and the strengthening understanding of the deadliness of Hepatitis C in the late 1970s, early 80s[2].

Factor Concentrates

In the early 1970s, a revolutionary new treatment was offered to haemophiliacs.  Known as ‘factor concentrates’, the drugs could treat haemophilia symptoms such as organ failure and severe pain.

The most common treatment used in the UK was Factor VIII.

The need for large quantities of blood

According to Tainted Blood, a group that has spent years campaigning for justice for victims of the scandal, large drug companies focused on “harvesting blood from the cheapest possible sources in order to make as much of the product as they could”[3].  It is thought that a significant amount of the blood was sourced from American “skid row” donors - groups of the population, such as prison inmates and habitual drug users, who are statistically more likely to have either HIV or Hepatitis C.  Despite safety warnings, it is alleged that the government chose to continue to use such commercial suppliers for some years.

The manufacturing process of factor concentrates included the use of harvested blood from ‘skid-row’ donors combined with hundreds of others in huge vats.  As even a single infected unit of blood can contaminate an entire batch, many thousands of doses of factor concentrate were infected. The contaminated blood- product was then delivered around the world and given to unsuspecting haemophiliacs.

In response to the risk of contaminated blood products sourced from foreign countries, in 1975 the government committed to the UK becoming self-sufficient in the main blood product used to treat haemophilia (Factor VIII) within two to three years.

Tragically, this promise was never kept. Heat treatment of blood products, which could extinguish viruses, became available in the early 1980s but wasn’t fully implemented until 1986.

Campaigners have unearthed evidence that officials in the Department of Health knew or suspected that the imported factor concentrates posed a risk as early as 1983[4]. Yet the NHS continued to give them to haemophiliacs.

A failure to launch a public inquiry

On 11th July 2017, Prime Minister, Theresa May announced there would be a public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal.  But so far no Chair has been appointed, and terms of reference have not been agreed.

An independent inquiry was set up in 2007 by Lord Morris of Manchester and chaired by the former solicitor general Lord Archer.  It lasted two years, and many victims gave evidence, much of which was highly distressing as people told of ruined lives, the deaths of family members and the shame of having HIV or Hepatitis C.

No government ministers gave evidence at the inquiry, a move that was strongly condemned.

Those who have already received compensation may still be able to sue the government

Solicitors for families involved in the legal action state that any compensation awarded to victims in the 1990s are invalid because the government withheld key facts.

Steven Snowden QC told the hearing ““Freedom of information requests have unearthed minutes of meetings and recommendations to the government which strongly suggest that the risks and dangers were known from at least 1983.”

HIV and Hepatitis C Blood Contamination Compensation Claims

Those providing medical treatment to you have a duty to provide an expected standard of care.  If care falls below this standard, you may be entitled to recover compensation.  This can help cover the cost of the private medical treatment needed to correct the failings on the part of those originally treating you.  It can also assist with paying bills if you are unable to work for a period.

If you have concerns about the medical care that you have received, please contact one of our clinical negligence lawyers at IBB Claims.  We have a strong reputation for obtaining justice for victims of the negligence by others.  We achieve this by securing compensation that reflects their pain and suffering, as well as related financial losses including loss of earnings, treatment costs and specialist care costs.

Contact our HIV and Hepatitis C Compensation Experts

Please contact one of our medical negligence solicitors for advice on how to obtain compensation for receiving contaminated blood  -  including HIV and hepatitis C claims. Please call us on 0333 123 9099.  Alternatively, you can send an email with your name and contact information and brief details as to the nature of the accident/clinical negligence and the injuries sustained to enquiries@ibbclaims.co.uk, and one of our team will be able to help you.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/26/contaminated-blood-scandal-victims-win-ruling-to-launch-high-court-action

[2] http://haemophilia.org.uk/support/day-day-living/patient-support/contaminated-blood/history-contaminated-blood/

[3] http://www.taintedblood.info/tb/background/

[4] http://www.taintedblood.info/tb/background/

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