Inquiry to open into potential cover-up behind contaminated blood scandal

Credit: ITV News Central

An inquiry will open on Tuesday into a potential cover-up behind the contaminated blood scandal which saw thousands of people given infected transfusions by the NHS.

Nearly 3,000 people died after being treated with blood products infected with Hepatitis viruses and HIV during the 1970s and 1980s.

Thousands more of those affected have endured years of ill health, with one victim describing them as "dead men walking".

The inquiry is expected to take three years and victim support groups estimate between 250 and 300 more of those affected will not live to see its conclusions.

This is the latest inquiry into what has been described as the greatest scandal in the history of the NHS.

It will examine why contaminated blood was given, how the authorities, including the government, responded and the question of whether evidence was covered-up - and if so by whom?

A campaigner accused the government of offering victims 'means-tested scraps'. Credit: PA

As the inquiry begins in central London, the Government has announced extra money will go to thousands of people affected by the medical catastrophe, up to £75 million.

Bereaved partners of victims will also be eligible for support.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "The contaminated blood scandal was a tragedy that should never have happened and has caused unimaginable pain and hurt for victims and their families for decades."

But a campaigner said the Government had failed to accept responsibility for the scandal and was now attempting damage limitation by offering victims more money.

Jason Evans, whose father died in 1993 having contracted hepatitis and HIV, accused, the Government of offering victims "means-tested scraps" as a new inquiry gets under way.

Ade Goodyear was infected in the 1970s Credit: ITV News

Ade Goodyear is in London to give evidence and his story is shockingly typical.

As child he was diagnosed with haemophillia, a genetic condition that causes a lack of the essential blood-clotting protein known as factor VIII. It means even a small injury can result in severe blood loss.

In the 1970s, a medical breakthrough meant hemophiliacs could keep a bottle of factor VIII, sourced from thousands of blood donors, in the fridge and inject themselves when they needed it.

But for Ade, and thousands of others, this new treatment led to a lifetime of suffering.

Some of the blood came from American prisons Credit: ITV News

He was infected with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV and, while Ade has survived to tell his story, many close to him have not.

He lost both of his brothers and many friends who were treated alongside him in Hampshire.

"I lost 73 friends from there. I lost both my brothers, Gary and Jason. One passed from Hepatitis C, and Jason died of Aids in 1997," Ade told ITV News.

Jackie Britton was given an infected blood transfusion after childbirth Credit: ITV News

Jackie Britton will also be telling the inquiry her personal story. She was given a transfusion following the birth of her first child in 1983. The blood carried the Hepatitis C virus.

She told ITV News she wants justice while shes still alive to see it.

"We're dead men walking. We haven't got the time any longer to hang around," Mrs Britton told ITV News.

"They've already got off cheap because so many of us have died. They need to pay and put their hands up now and take on the responsibility of what's happened in the past."

Former Health Secretary Andy Burnham said he found similarities to Hillsborough Credit: ITV News

The inquiry will not only look at the decision to import blood, some of which came from American prisons, but at a potential cover-up at the highest level.

Former Health Secretary Andy Burnham says he found similarities to Hillsborough.

He told ITV News: "Not just that people's medical records had gone missing, although there is evidence of that. Or indeed that they had bits taken out, I have evidence that some people's medical records were amended to suggest that the health problems they had were self inflicted."

Ade said it is essential that the truth comes out.

"We're never going to get closure. That's not going to happen. Not at my age. But understanding will go along way as to how and why so many of us were infected," he said.