It has been labelled the “worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”, in which nearly 3,000 people have lost their lives. The Infected Blood Inquiry – an investigation into contamination of blood and products with HIV, Hepatitis C and other infections – had its first procedural hearings at Church House on September 24th 2018. The hearings will continue for three days, to September 26th. Cyrilia Davies Knight is instructed in this inquiry on behalf of 4 core participants; and her team includes Ms Karon Monaghan QC of Matrix Chambers and Mr Philip Dayle of No5 Chambers as counsel.
The inquiry will examine how and why contaminated blood was used freely in the NHS, what was known about the risk of infection, the impact on those affected and persistent claims of a cover-up.
Much of the human blood plasma used in the UK in the 1970s and 80s came from US donors such as prison inmates and drug addicts, who sold their blood, leading to people being given infected blood or infected blood products.
Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff has pledged a “thorough examination of the evidence.” Among the questions that the inquiry will seek to answer, are the following:
- What was known about the risks of contamination by government, pharma and others?
- Were credible risks about contamination ignored?
- Why wasn’t the UK self-sufficient in supply of blood or blood products?
- Did commercial interests influence the attitude towards the risk of blood contamination?
- What is the true human toll of this disaster?
- Has there been a cover up about what happened and by whom?
Infected and Affected to be at the heart of the inquiry
The three day procedural hearing commenced with a commemoration service in memory of those who have lost their lives; and those whose lives have been forever changed as a result of this scandal. It followed with the opening statements of chairman Sir Brian Langstaff and counsel to the inquiry Ms. Jenni Richards QC. One message rang out loud and clear : those infected and affected are to be placed at the heart of this inquiry.
The inquiry promises to move as fast as reasonable thoroughness permits. Both the chairman and counsel to the inquiry noted the poignant fact that many who are infected have expressed anxiety about being able to see the inquiry to its conclusion. The inquiry aims to begin substantive hearings from April 30th of next year – and include hearings outside of London. A cautious estimate is that it will conclude its investigation in a year and a quarter after substantive hearings begin next spring.