The Hepatitis C Trust’s Penrose Inquiry report response

Picture of the Penrose inquiry report courtesy of the BBC.

The Hepatitis C Trust has welcomed the long-awaited publication of the Penrose Inquiry’s report into hepatitis C/HIV acquired infection from NHS treatment in Scotland, and has urged that its key recommendation, that all people who received a blood transfusion prior to September 1991 be tested for hepatitis C, be implemented across the UK as a matter of urgency.

The Inquiry, which was established by the Scottish Government in April 2008, looked at the contamination of blood supplies between 1970 and 1991, during which time thousands of people across the UK were infected with hepatitis C and, to a lesser extent, HIV. The Inquiry took evidence on how the NHS collected, treated and supplied blood, as well as whether the authorities did enough to protect people from becoming infected.

Among its findings were that:

  • Approximately 2,978 people were infected with hepatitis C in Scotland via contaminated blood.
  • More should have been done to screen blood and donors for hepatitis C in the early 1990s.
  • The collection of blood from prisoners should have stopped sooner than it did.
  • Patients were not adequately informed of the risks because of the “paternalistic attitude” of doctors at the time.

The report also recommended that the Scottish Government “take all reasonable steps” to offer a hepatitis C test to everyone who received a blood transfusion prior to September 1991.

Charles Gore, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, says:

“We are pleased that the report has finally been published and has provided at least some answers to the questions of how and why this disaster unfolded. It is clear that more could and should have been done to prevent the infection of people with hepatitis C via contaminated blood, although this is perhaps of little comfort to those who have already lost loved ones. While we are happy with the recommendation to introduce screening of people who received blood transfusions pre-1991, we are disappointed that the report does not include any specific recommendations regarding the reform of the financial support system for victims of the tragedy.”

In response to the report’s publication, David Cameron and Shona Robison, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, offered apologies on behalf of the UK and Scottish Governments respectively for the tragedy. The Prime Minister also committed £25 million to supporting the transition to a better payment system for those affected.

Charles Gore added:

“We can tell how many haemophiliacs were affected by the disaster because their health was known. But there was an unknown number of blood transfusions in that time; this means that there are people who will have had infected blood who still don’t know that it was infected. We welcome David Cameron and Shona Robison’s apologies today, but we also urge their governments, and the other devolved governments, to now re-double efforts to find, diagnose and treat all of those people with hepatitis C across the UK.”

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