Campaigners ‘don’t trust government to lead probe’
VICTIMS affected by the contaminated blood scandal boycotted a meeting with government officials yesterday over their involvement in an inquiry into the tragedy which led to 2,400 deaths.
Theresa May announced last week that there would be an investigation into the scandal but survivors say it is inappropriate for the department to be involved when it is itself under investigation over alleged failures to protect the patients.
Labour echoed the victims’ concerns, calling for an independent inquiry into the blood transfusions given to haemophiliacs and other patients in the 1970s and ’80s which were infected with hepatitis C and HIV, demanding that the Department of Health be cut out of the probe.
Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North Diana Johnson said in the Commons yesterday the government had “run roughshod” over the wishes of victims by allowing its department and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to take part in the investigation.
Ms Johnson — who has campaigned for justice over the deaths — said that allowing the department to head the inquiry would be equivalent to “asking South Yorkshire Police to lead an inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster.”
Shadow public health minister Sharon Hodgson also said victims had “deeply held suspicions” about the Department of Health.
Haemophilia Society chief executive Liz Carroll turned down an invitation to attend because of the officials’ refusal to postpone it as not everyone who had been affected by the scandal could make it.
She added in a letter to Ms May: “Campaigners, key MPs and the Haemophilia Society have all strongly argued that the department must not be involved in deciding the remit and powers of an inquiry that will be investigating the actions of its ministers and staff.
“I am sure you can imagine the distress and distrust this would cause for those who are so desperate for the truth to be told.”
A joint statement from groups seeking justice over the scandal, including Tainted Blood, the Forgotten Few, Positive Women and the Contaminated Blood Campaign, said: “We do not believe that the Department of Health should be allowed to direct or have any involvement into an investigation to themselves, other than giving evidence.”
Downing Street insisted the inquiry would be independent and concerned parties would be asked whether they wanted a judge-led inquiry or a Hillsborough-style panel.