St Albans NHS tainted blood scandal victim speaks out about BBC revelations

A new BBC docmentary shed more light on the tainted blood scandal.

A new BBC docmentary shed more light on the tainted blood scandal. - Credit: Archant

A St Albans victim of the NHS tainted blood scandal has spoken out about revelations uncovered in a new BBC documentary.

Nicky, who prefers to only use her first name, has the clotting disorder haemophilia and was treated with an NHS blood treatment called Factor VIII when she was nine years old.

It was made by mixing blood plasma from thousands of donors - if any one of those people had an infectious blood disease it would poison the whole batch.

In the 1980s the NHS imported Factor VIII from America where prisoners and drug users were paid to give blood, which commonly carried hepatitis C and the Aids virus HIV.

Nicky is just one victim - it is estimated that approximately 4,670 haemophiliacs were infected with hepatitis C and 1,243 also contracted HIV.

More than 2,000 victims have died from diseases they got from Factor VIII.

Last week BBC’s Panorama investigated the scandal, publishing documents which show doctors and NHS leaders were warned of the dangers of Factor VIII well before its use was stopped.

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By the early 1970s hepatitis was known to be potentially fatal and by 1983 the risk of HIV infection was known and yet patients were not told of the danger.

They continued to be given the dodgy blood and now victims are still calling for a new inquiry into what happened, despite Government apologies, compensation and a previous inquiry in 2009.

Labour’s former health secretary Andy Burnham has backed their campaign, telling Parliament in April that he had evidence of a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale” and called for a “Hillsborough-style” inquiry.

St Albans mum Nicky was infected with hepititus C but had recovered by 1997. She described herself as a “lucky one”: “I am just hoping that the public will now understand a bit why we have been campaigning for so long.”

At the time that the sheer scale of victims was being uncovered, people who had used Factor VIII were tested for HIV and hepatitis C without their consent or knowledge, and their results were often not quickly communicated.

Nicky was tested in 1991 but only found out her disease in 1995.

This has also happened to Nikki’s haemophilic son recently - four years ago she found out his blood had been tested without her consent.

“Why,” she asked, “is history repeating itself?”

Adding: “Lessons have never been learnt so the current government’s refusal to do anything further is beyond me, or maybe it’s because they are too scared for that truth to come out, because they know that what was done amounts to misconduct in public office, and breaches the Nuremberg code.”

She believes the NHS knew of dangers but were concealing them to observe the outcomes: “It’s clear they were doing research experiments.

“Chimpanzees were expensive.”

In the documentary, doctors insisted they did not fully understand the implications of infected blood products.

Dr Brian Colvin, the director of the Haemophilia Centre at the Royal London Hospital from 1977-2007 said: “We understood there were risks.

“But what we didn’t understand was the magnitude of what was about to happen.”

He later dismissed the need for a new inquiry: “I think it would lead to more distress then it would lead to enlightenment.

“It would create really no benefit in my view to anybody, least of all to the people who were infected at the time and have my undying sympathy.”

The Department of Health said: “This was an unprecedented tragedy, and we are continuing to work closely with those affected to make sure the right support is in place for them.

“We have more than doubled our annual spend on payments to people affected since 2015, committing an additional £125m, as well as providing an annual payment to all infected individuals. This is significantly more than any previous government has provided for those affected by this tragedy.

“We will continue to listen and are currently consulting on new measures to extend the group of individuals who benefit from higher annual payments.”

Nicky has never been compensated because she did not fit qualifying criteria.