Government denies NHS blood scandal cover-up


A government minister has denied allegations that there was a Department of Health cover-up over the NHS infected blood scandal.
The denial came after Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott secured a Westminster Hall debate on the findings of an inquiry into the scandal.
She said the Department of Health (DH) had “not played fair with the inquiry team”.
Lord Archer of Sandwell’s independent inquiry reported in February and described the scandal as a “horrific human tragedy”.
Nearly 5, 000 people with haemophilia were exposed to hepatitis C, and more than 1,200 were also infected with HIV, following treatment with contaminated NHS blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. Nearly 2,000 of them have died and many more are terminally ill.
Willott said the DH released 27 documents two months after Lord Archer published his inquiry report, and another 468 the same day the government responded to the report, in May.
She also criticised the government’s decision only to double to £12,800 annual payments to those infected with HIV, and its refusal to increase payments to those who contracted hepatitis C.
She said: “That is just not fair compensation for infecting someone with a virus that causes them huge daily suffering and is ultimately very likely to kill them.
“The Department of Health has said that it will reassess the [hepatitis compensation]scheme in 2014, but that is a very long way away, and we are talking about people with life-threatening conditions.”
An early day motion calling for all of the inquiry’s recommendations to be implemented had secured the signatures of 184 MPs, she added.
Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat MP, said there had been “an entrenched resistance by the government to admit what happened in the past”.
Health minister Gillian Merron said the circumstances were “tragic” and successive governments had been accused of “trying to hide what was said and done during the period when most of the infections occurred”.
But she said the current government had done “more than any other” to make information available, and “neither we nor Lord Archer and his team found any evidence of a cover-up”.
She said DH officials met with Lord Archer and more than 5,000 documents were made available to his inquiry, and the most recently-released documents “did not add materially to what was already known”.
2 July 2009