‘In Cold Blood’ aired on ITV on Sunday 27th September. This documentary reported on how people with haemophilia were infected with hepatitis C and HIV through the blood products used to treat them.
Many people will have heard fragments of this story about blood products, namely Factor VIII, in the 1970s and 80s. What this documentary does is tie together the whole course of events, make clear the failures which continue to impact people today, and show just how long those affected have been frustrated in their search for the truth.
It is based on the substantial investigative work carried out by Jason Evans, whose father died from HIV and hepatitis C infection. In his quest for the truth and accountability, Jason, through freedom of information requests, obtained over 300,000 documents from a number of sources including the government.
Infected blood is often referred to as the ‘biggest treatment disaster in NHS history’ but this documentary and the painstaking work by Jason made clear that this was not a single disaster or event. Instead, there was a long running series of decisions and failures which those infected paid a very high price for. These included: decisions to use pooled blood products from overseas, decisions not to tell patients about their HIV and hepatitis C antibody tests coming back positive, decisions not to heat-treat blood to destroy the HIV virus and the failure to warn patients about the risk of viral hepatitis or HIV from these products.
Even once the scale of the issue had been realised, the documentary reveals a refusal from the government to accept blame and an attempt to strong arm people affected into accepting ‘ex gratia’ payments in which the government would be relieved of any responsibility. People were told that unless they accepted these, and signed the relevant waivers, no person infected in this way would receive any payment.
Rachel Halford, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust said:
“This is an important documentary. The truth of what happened to people who received infected blood has been seeping out, bit by bit, for years. This documentary shows the scale of government failure over decades.
“And even today there are still some documents which the government has not disclosed.
“Jason Evans deserves a huge amount of recognition for his thorough and meticulous work. He has helped search for the truth that will benefit everyone who has been affected by HIV and hepatitis C through infected blood, both those who received blood products, and those who were infected through blood transfusions.”
The Infected Blood Inquiry is an independent inquiry, established by the UK government to look into a wide range of issues relating to infected blood, including how thousands of people came to be given blood containing hepatitis C and HIV prior to September 1991. People infected include those in receipt of blood products, such as people treated for haemophilia, but also those who received ‘whole blood’ transfusions including after suffering injuries in accidents, requiring blood during routine operations and after complications during childbirth.
We recommend that everyone who had a blood transfusion before September 1991 asks their GP for a hepatitis C test, as we are still regularly contacted by people who have not been tested or who have only recently been diagnosed. If you are concerned about any issues relating to the Inquiry or hepatitis C, you can call our confidential helpline, which is staffed by people who have had hepatitis C.