NI survivor of infected blood scandal calls for prosecutions and apology from Prime Minister

A Belfast man who contracted the life threatening illness hepatitis C from infected blood products has called on the Public Prosecution Service to examine the findings of a public inquiry into the scandal.

Paul Kirkpatrick is also urging the Prime Minister to apologise to the victims for what has been described as the worst treatment disaster in NHS history.

"The judge has heard a lot of examples of lies, myths and negligence. Hopefully that will be passed on to the Prosecution service and they will make decisions," he said.

"As Andy Burnham said in his eyes and in many people's eyes this is corporate manslaughter and there should be consequences."

He added: "There is still a lot of anger and resentment and still a lot of unanswered questions from the people who maybe could have provided answers and weren't able to at the inquiry.

"We want an apology from the head of government and a substantive apology."

It's believed as many as 3,000 people have died after being infected with contaminated blood products. They include Paul's elder brother Desmond Kirkpatrick.

Most of those involved, like Paul and Desmond, had the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia and were given injections of the US product Factor VIII.

However people who were given blood transfusions were also exposed to contaminated blood products.

In 2017, then-prime minister Theresa May ordered the public inquiry. It is now entering its final stages.

Apologies from Northern Ireland health trusts are expected in the closing submissions but it is understood Northern Ireland's Department of Health will not make a submission.

Paul Kirkpatrick says he is "disgusted" about that.

"I think it's a cop-out. It is a reflection on our government. Whenever Robin Swann was in place and there was excellent work undertaken by him and his department but not to respond or put in submissions, to my mind is unnecessary," he said.

"This is not a political topic. There's no reason why the Department of Health could not submit what they have learned and what they would like to learn going forward with in the future."

On Tuesday, Steven Snowden KC, instructed by Collins Solicitors, opened closing submissions on behalf of more than 1,500 core and non-core participants.

He told the inquiry: "Thousands of men, women and children have died or had the trajectory of their lives unavoidably altered for the worse. Families have been shattered. This was a brutal, unacceptable, unforgivable and unnecessary travesty visited upon patients in the grossest breach of medical trust imaginable with truly devastating consequences.

"Individuals have been stripped of their dignity. They have been forced to lead lives they did not choose.

"Governments have over the years delayed, denied and have degraded those who are infected and affected by how they have subsequently been treated."

He added: "We say this preventable catastrophe arose from the combination of pharmaceutical companies' greed and unsafe practices, the skipping of known safety steps for blood products, insufficient regulation, foresight and planning by government, over-enthusiasm on the part of clinicians blinding them to the obvious risks and dangers of large pool blood products.

"Why in the United Kingdom in the 21st century did it have to come to this? "Why has the truth had to be squeezed out of government by campaigners through litigation and through public inquiry?"

Mr Snowden quoted former health secretary and current Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who gave evidence to the inquiry in July 2022 and said: "I am afraid that institutions and the state close ranks around a lie, sometimes, and I think that's what happened in this case."

As well as wanting an apology, those affected and infected by the scandal have called on the Government to implement recommendations set out in an independent report by Sir Robert Francis, which set a framework for how victims could be compensated.

In October, the Government said thousands of victims of the infected blood scandal would receive interim compensation payments of £100,000 by the end of the month.

At the time, then-chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said: "No level of compensation will ever make up for the appalling treatment and circumstances that those affected by this scandal and their families have had to endure, but I hope that these interim payments go some way to demonstrate that we are, and always will be, on their side."

But Mr Snowden said: "It's not clear still whether the Government proposes to include or would commit to including parents who've lost children or children who lost parents within the (compensation) scheme."

The affected and infected individuals also want a permanent memorial for victims in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast, Collins Solicitors said.

And they want the history and issues arising from the contaminated blood scandal to be a required part of the syllabus for undergraduate medical and nursing training.

They also want health passports and fast-track NHS treatment to be provided for infected victims, and have asked that the inquiry passes all relevant evidence to prosecuting authorities in the four nations to allow them to independently consider whether criminal proceedings should be brought.

The inquiry will hear a closing statement by Eleanor Grey KC, acting on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care, on Wednesday.

A Government spokesman said: "Victims of the infected blood scandal have suffered enough. The Government fully accepts the moral case for compensation and has paid interim compensation to those eligible.

"This was only the first step. Work continues to prepare for the conclusions and recommendations of the Infected Blood Inquiry later this year."

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