Health: Contaminated Blood Products — Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:09 pm on 23rd April 2009.

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Photo of Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Crossbench 12:09 pm, 23rd April 2009

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Morris, for bringing forward this debate on the report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, who I am thrilled to see in the Chamber today; I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

We know that the noble Lord, Lord Morris, is a tireless campaigner on behalf of people with haemophilia, especially those tragically affected by contaminated blood products. I declare an interest. On 19 December 1993, my first husband, Graham Ingleson, died, 18 months after his brother Anthony. They both lost their lives as a result of receiving contaminated factor 8 blood products in the mid-1980s. This inquiry is not just about those who were infected with contaminated blood products; there is another strong, underlying story. It is a story of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands and friends who continue to endure the effects—psychological and economic—of seeing their loved ones die or become gravely ill. We have needed this inquiry for a long, long time and now we even more need a response from a Government who have been too silent on this issue.

Noble Lords will know from reading the report that the UK Haemophilia Society has campaigned for a public inquiry since 1988. However, successive Governments have declined to establish a statutory public inquiry. On 12 January 2006, the noble Lord, Lord Warner, then Minister of State at the Department of Health, put it clearly when he said in reply to a Question that,

"we do not consider that a public inquiry is justified as we do not believe that any new light will be shed on this issue as a result".—[Hansard, 12/1/06; col. 299.]

Fortunately, we are blessed with the dogged tenacity of the noble Lord, Lord Morris. He knew that there was light to be shed on this issue and he knew that the story had to be told. He believed that a public inquiry should be held for three simple reasons: first, to learn lessons for the future; secondly, to go some small way to help victims and their families to articulate their stories and to gain public recognition of their plight—truth and reconciliation are often at the heart of the pain; and, thirdly, to make recommendations that would give practical help and assistance to those living with the effects of treatment contamination.

In February 2007, the independent public inquiry was launched under the considerable weight of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer. Even though it had no statutory power to compel evidence from the Government or the health service, it heard from 300 witnesses and examined over 20,000 documents—that is a lot of documents. Before us today, we have a remarkable report. It is born out of selfless commitments from solicitors and experts, the majority of whom gave their time and expertise free of charge.

The fact that this report was produced independent of government and the Haemophilia Society means that it is truly independent. The report states that there is absolutely "no hidden agenda". For many of us this is probably the most significant point and only adds to the report's power and importance. In it, noble Lords will read about the scandalously slow reaction by successive Governments to the need to safeguard blood products imported from the United States during the 1980s. This meant that we failed to protect nearly 5,000 people who died or are now living with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C or CJD. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, was absolutely right when he said that this has been,

"the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS".

He should know.

UK self-sufficiency in producing blood products could have been established much sooner than it was. It took five years in Ireland, but 13 in England and Wales. This was just one of the scandalous ways in which the state reacted to the lethal health risk of contaminated blood products. Noble Lords will have read again and again throughout the report of the inappropriate and simply wrong responses to this situation.

However, it is impossible to relive those years. Quite frankly, we do not want to keep reliving them. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, is right when he says that we must now look ahead. The purpose of his inquiry was to help the truth to surface and to learn important lessons for the future. It does not seek to apportion blame.

I am hoping that the recently withdrawn amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, to the current Health Bill, seeking to establish a statutory committee to provide and give advice to government and haemophiliacs on services and to help those still suffering from the results of contaminated blood products, will return at Report stage and will be supported. The amendment would implement one of the inquiry's recommendations. Given the decades of injustice, the amendment offers one small practical way to right a great wrong and it sends out a strong message to those who are waiting for a little more. I should be interested to hear the Minister's view as to whether this recommendation, which is not costly, and others in the report will gain the support of the Government. I am also looking forward to the possibility that the Minister will give us a timeline.

When the amendment was debated in Grand Committee, I explained to noble Lords present that every year, on the anniversary of my husband's death, I visit the church of St Botolph without Bishopsgate in the City of London. It is a beautiful church and noble Lords should visit it. At the back is a small memorial book. In it you will find the names of those haemophiliacs who have died as a result of contaminated blood products. Every year, new names are entered in the book. Haemophiliacs living with the consequences of lethal treatment require the best information, the best support and the best advice. The proposed statutory committee can provide that. The Government have the opportunity to show at last that they recognise the extraordinary plight of haemophiliacs. I hope that they and noble Lords will feel able to support the amendment, should it be laid again at the Report stage of the Health Bill.

Annotations

paul desmond
Posted on 1 Jun 2009 2:55 pm (Report this annotation)

For every Factor 8 infection from the US, there are 50 clearly audited and admitted infections of hcv from the NHS local blood supply. Our Self Sufficient blood was 2.6% infectious per surgery. 100,000 people need to be diagnosed fast, their death rate is tripling due to our obsession with compensation and one blood product. Cambridge PCT records 20 dialysis infections to each factor 8 infection alone. An amendment is not going to find 100,000 NHS infected survivors or 250,000 overseas survivors.
Support the 6 Hepatitis Asks, millions of safety checks will protect hundreds of thousands of lives by 2012. 5000 people die each year with hcv, no death certificate, no book or even an awareness for decades.
Our Baroness Campbell is quite right, our haemophiliacs have not been told in 1994 HCV was classified as carciogenic as smoking. They were forced into the compensation by December 1993 for a minor infection. All 2700 of them, any human deserves better treatment, we've paid to be helped with the truth, not outwitted by a compensation legal crew.

I'll get in touch personally Baroness.

Paul Desmond.