Hundreds of survivors of the tainted blood scandal of the 1970s and 1980s are being denied a chance to tell their stories at the official inquiry, they claim.
Time restrictions during the preliminary hearing of the Infected Blood Inquiry yesterday meant lawyers were allocated as little as five seconds per victim to explain the devastation caused to thousands of patients infected with HIV and hepatitis by transfusions of contaminated blood brought in from overseas.
Theresa May announced last year an inquiry would be held after decades of pressure from campaigners and the press, including the Daily Mail, into how British patients were infected and whether there had been an institutional cover-up.
Hundreds of survivors of a blood transfusion scandal in the 1970s and 80s have been denied the chance to tell their stories. File photo
But after fighting for justice for more than 30 years, some victims who are facing terminal illnesses said it was ‘disgusting’ they would not be able to speak about a scandal that affected about 7,500 people and has already led to at least 2,500 deaths.
Alan Burgess, 60, from Ipswich, was infected with both HIV and hepatitis C in 1985 after he was given blood plasma products as a treatment for haemophilia.
He told the Mail: ‘We are not being heard, and that is so frustrating.
‘We have stories going back 30 years and we are not going to be allowed to tell them.’
Only seven victims will get a chance to speak for 15 minutes or have their statements read out, and a further eight will have lawyers speak on their behalf for a total of an hour.
There are another 1,252 victims whose lawyers will have just four hours to speak – equivalent of 11 seconds per victim.
Theresa May announced last year an inquiry would be held after decades of pressure from campaigners and the press
In the worst case, one QC speaking on behalf of 656 participants will have only an hour to put across their views – equivalent to 5.4 seconds per victim.
During the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of patients, many of them haemophiliacs, were infected by transfusions of imported blood or blood products that were supposed to help with their condition.
It was later revealed that much of the blood had been imported from prison inmates in the US who were paid for their donations. File photo
It was later revealed that much of the blood had been imported from prison inmates in the US who were paid for their donations.
Many were drug addicts, alcoholics or prostitutes suffering with serious illnesses, and their blood had not been treated to destroy any viruses before being used in Britain.
A spokesman for the inquiry said all victims and their families would have an opportunity to submit evidence to the full inquiry next year. He added: ‘There are practical constraints to ensure everyone is given a chance to be heard.’