HIV and Hepatitis C Blood inquiry condemns commercial priorities which led to thousands of patients being infected
The inquiry, led by Labour Peer Lord Archer of Sandwell, said the infection of so many people was a “horrific human tragedy.”
The authors of the report said they were “dismayed” at the time taken by the Government and scientific agencies to respond to the dangers of Hepatitis C and HIV infections.
The report noted there was “lethargic” progress towards national self-sufficiency in blood products in England and Wales, where it took 13 years compared to just five years in Ireland.
As a result the NHS bought blood from US suppliers who used what became known as “skid row” donors, such as prison inmates, who were more likely to have HIV and Hepatitis C.
The report said: “It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that commercial interests took precedence over public health concerns.”
It added: “Whether the lack of urgency over much of this period arose from over-hesitant scientific advice or from a sluggish response by Government is now difficult to assess.”
Nearly 2,000 haemophiliacs have died as a result of exposure to the contaminated blood in what leading medical expert Lord Winston called “the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”.
Some 4,670 patients who received blood transfusions in the 1970s and 1980s were infected with Hepatitis C, of whom 1,243 were also infected with HIV.
Lord Archer’s two year privately funded inquiry was set up after decades of campaigning from victims and their families.
The report noted: “The haemophilia community feels that their plight has never been fully acknowledged or addressed.”
The authors said a full public inquiry into the scandal should have been held much earlier to address the concerns of haemophiliacs.
In conclusion they said: “Commercial priorities should never again override the interests of public health.”