AN INQUIRY into the contaminated blood scandal, which took the lives of 2,400 people, was announced by Theresa May yesterday following concerted pressure from opposition politicians.
She yielded just hours before MPs were due to debate an emergency motion on the issue that could have led to a government defeat.
Just two days previously, party leaders, including Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, called on the Prime Minister to order a Hillsborough-style public inquiry in the light of new evidence put forward by former health secretary Andy Burnham.
Back in April, Mr Burnham charged that the scandal had involved a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale.”
Labour MP Diana Johnson, who co-ordinated the letter, said yesterday that victims and their families had been “denied true and meaningful justice” for the “worst treatment in the history of our NHS.”
NHS blood treatments in the 1970s and ’80s were given mainly to haemophiliacs using blood imported from the US that was infected with HIV and hepatitis C.
Mr Burnham, now the mayor of Greater Manchester, said the victims had been used as “guinea pigs” and subjected to “slurs and smears” with falsified medical records.
Ms Johnson told MPs: “Victims and their families deserve to be told what went wrong, why it went wrong and the story of what happened.”
She condemned the use of blood “sourced from profit-making American firms,” and successive governments who “sidestepped this issue for too long,” adding that the devastation has been spread over decades, affecting nearly everyone suffering from bleeding disorders at the time.
Fellow Labour MP Alan Johnson pointed out that “vital documents were destroyed.”
But one document found by former health minister Lord David Owen in 2007 showed that officials knew in 1976 that imported blood products came with a “higher hepatitis risk.”
Mr Corbyn said: “I think we need the strongest possible inquiry that can, if necessary, lead to prosecution actions as a result but, above all, get to the bottom of it.” email@example.com