On 30th April, 2019, nearly two years after it was announced by the Prime Minister, the Infected Blood Public Inquiry began to hear evidence from the victims and families of those treated with contaminated plasma products such as Factor VIII in the 1970s and 1980s, resulting in victims being infected with HIV and/or Hepatitis C.
Des Collins, Senior Partner at Collins Solicitors, representing over 1,400 people in relation to the Infected Blood Public Inquiry, comments:
“We have achieved a great deal since the hearings opened in April 2019, but by any measure progress is incredibly slow.
We are expecting the findings of the Inquiry to be published early in 2022, but for many this will be too late as, very sadly, many more victims will have died by the time they are published. We need to keep moving.
So many of those infected and affected by this tragedy suffer ill health and financial problems as a direct result of infection through no fault of their own.”
It is estimated that in the UK, almost 5,000 haemophiliacs given contaminated treatments were infected with Hepatitis C, whilst over 1,200 also contracted HIV, for many of whom this then progressed to AIDS. Some victims unwittingly infected their partners with HIV, of whom at least 31 have died.
The failure by the Government to act is estimated to have caused well over 2,000 deaths nationwide, so far, with many victims having died too early to be treated with modern life-prolonging medication. One victim is still dying every four days.
Fewer than 250 of the haemophiliacs “co-infected” with both Hepatitis C & HIV remain alive, most died before 1997. Those who survive face a lifetime on medication coping with both serious illness and shocking discrimination.
Between the end of April 2019 and the end of the first phase of the Inquiry in November 2019, 189 people provided harrowing public evidence and more than 2,500 others provided written evidence as core participants to the Inquiry, the largest Public Inquiry ever held in the UK.
The evidence was often difficult to listen to and incredibly emotional. The stories of heartbreak and the challenges faced by those both infected and affected by this scandal were as varied as they were tragic.
These accounts were followed by a week of hearings at the end of February 2020 from a number of experts appointed by the Infected Blood Inquiry, including psychosocial, hepatitis, HIV and bleeding disorders experts. The next stage of the inquiry – delayed by Coronavirus – is to hear from clinicians who were in practice at the time, now scheduled for mid-September 2020.
Calls made by Collins Solicitors and campaigners for urgent compensation discussions to start as soon as possible have, to date, been refused.
Des Collins continues:
“It is critical that the government, which has proved recently that it can move quickly when it has to, urgently starts a meaningful dialogue with campaigners around compensation. It is no good to say that discussions must wait until the end of the Inquiry – that absolutely is not the case, and the government has never used this excuse before. The time for action is now.
I remain in no doubt of the importance and value of this Inquiry in getting to the bottom of what happened and why, and to make certain this type of disaster can never again happen in this country.”
In addition to the Public Inquiry, Collins Solicitors also applied for the ‘Contaminated Blood Products Group Litigation Order’ (GLO) in the High Court, on behalf of 500+ clients, which was granted in July 2017. This is currently stayed, pending the findings of the Inquiry.
• Des Collins, Senior Partner, Collins Solicitors, T) 01923 223 324, M) 07831 522 540 firstname.lastname@example.org
• Danielle Holliday, Partner, Collins Solicitors, T) 01923 223 324, M) 07540 531 753 email@example.com
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