Haemophilia Inquiry Could be Toothless without Government Cooperation

March 26, 2007 12:00 AM

Commenting in advance of tomorrow's launch of the Public Inquiry, headed by the Rt Hon Lord Archer of Sandwell QC, into the infection of haemophiliacs with HIV and Hepatitis C from using NHS blood products, Jenny Willott MP said:

"After 20 years of secrecy, this inquiry is welcome. But I am deeply concerned that, without the backing of the Government and the full cooperation of the Department of Health, it may prove to be toothless.

"Since the 1970s and 1980s, when a large number of UK haemophiliacs under NHS treatment were infected with HIV or Hepatitis C from contaminated blood products, 1,757 have now died.

"This is indeed 'the worst treatment disaster in history'. But the real scandal has been the secrecy, non-cooperation and attitude of the Department of Health and successive Governments to the Haemophiliac Community.

"Efforts to discover how and why this tragedy occurred have hot brick wall after brick wall, from incomplete information, documents going missing and boxes of files being mistakenly destroyed. The Department of Health seems to have done nearly everything its power to prevent light being shed on this issue.

"We have been calling for a public inquiry for a long time. But, given the track record of this Government and former ones over this issue, it seems only a public inquiry backed by the Government would have the necessary teeth to get to the bottom of this issue.

"While I hope the Government and others do cooperate with this inquiry, I do not hold my breath. I will continue to fight for a full, independent public inquiry with the essential powers to demand to see documents and internal communications, and to summon witnesses, including ministers, civil servants and doctors."

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