Chloe Harrison, of Harrison Drury’s Healthcare Sector team, assesses the upcoming Contaminated Blood Inquiry and the impact it could have on the healthcare sector.
Set to be the largest inquiry ever heard in the UK, the Contaminated Blood Enquiry has been a long-awaited process for the many victims and their family members as the government has, for decades, denied negligence and refused to provide compensation to those affected.
What is the contaminated blood scandal?
During the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of NHS patients were treated with blood plasma donated from high-risk sources including prisoners, intravenous drug users and cadavers. As a direct result of the infected blood plasma, over 2,400 people died, and families were left bereft by the government who, at the time, refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
What’s the scope of the Inquiry and could criminal prosecutions follow?
The aim of the inquiry, set to begin next April, is to properly consider evidence of wrongdoing, finally giving victims and their families long-awaited answers regarding the cover-up of what has been described by Lord Robert Winston as the “worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”.
During recent consultations, a letter from the then Prime Minister John Major was read out, refusing compensation to victims on the basis they were given “the best possible treatment at the time”.
In his opening statement Sir Brain Longstaff, the Inquiry chair, now stipulates that criminal trials could follow from its findings.
What does this mean for the healthcare sector?
This Inquiry seeks to ensure accountability for any wrongdoing and transparency in future investigatory processes carried out in the NHS.
This is a particularly interesting development for the healthcare sector as more than 500 victims have already been granted permission to sue the government for compensation in the form of a group litigation order.
Additionally, it has been argued that limited legal settlements already reached in the 1990s should be set aside due to the fact key evidence was withheld from the victims and their families at the time.
What is the legacy of the contaminated blood scandal?
As a result of the contaminated blood scandal, safer practices are now carried out on a routine basis and substantial developments have been made in the understanding of blood borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.
Blood donations are now routinely tested for infections and improvements in donor vetting has meant that, since 1986, high-risk sources are carefully avoided.
Harrison Drury’s Healthcare sector team provides a wide range of legal services to organisations, businesses and individuals in the healthcare sector. This includes advice on regulatory and disciplinary matters, dispute resolution advice, corporate and commercial services, property advice and employment law advice. To speak to a member of our healthcare team contact Chloe or call 01772 258321.