Infected Blood Inquiry – 25th February 2020 - Expert Panel Hearing, Psychosocial Impact

Today the expert panel on the psychosocial impact for those that received infected blood and blood products gave evidence and elaborated on the findings they had made in their report. 

They provided a highly detailed and thorough account of all the potential areas where people infected and their partners and families have been affected in this way, whether it was how their diagnosis was handled, how information about their illness was conveyed, dealing with bereavement and many more.

They understood how the impact was not just on the person with hepatitis C and/or HIV, but in fact became a diagnosis for the whole family to adapt to, with what panel member summed up well by describing as a collective “grief for a lost future”.

There can be no doubt that the trauma those infected and affected have faced and the resulting feelings of anger, grief, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive behaviours and others, requires highly specialised and sensitive psychological and/or psychotherapeutic care to work through and the panel made many suggestions on how in a few settings this is already established and done well, and in others on how this could be done.

Dame Lesley Fallowfield expected that for many, a large part of healing will be achieved if there is a successful outcome to the Inquiry, with answers being given and an informed, sensitive apology from the highest level, that was truly meant.  This received a round of applause from those attending.

Certainly it was agreed that healthcare professionals and others involved in a patient’s care should receive more extensive training on dealing with sensitive issues and providing information that was not perceived as patronising or judgmental.  Also the importance of any relationship with a healthcare professional going beyond an interaction about the appointment – eg blood tests and them simply asking how people were – and how it was key to keep asking that question, so that people felt heard and supported throughout their journey with an illness, “it should be a really interactive process”.  By doing this, people could be guided to forms of support earlier, or if they didn’t want it one occasion, they may only make the decision to at a later date if the question keeps being asked.

There are many barriers to people seeking psychological support in a general sense, for example men may find it more difficult to ask for this kind of help, practical ones based on the provision of suitable services in different areas, that some may perceive psychological help as “woolly”, that there is also a stigma attached to seeking mental health support in itself and so on.  For those infected and affected there will be further barriers in that it comes through services or links they were already attached to where they were initially infected and the panel made suggestions on how this could be addressed.

You can read their report here