'Worst treatment disaster in the history of NHS'
A haemophiliac living with hepatitis C from contaminated blood has welcomed the outcome of an independent inquiry into what has been called "the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS".
Bill Payne, from Stapleton, is chairman of the Bristol and South West Haemophiliac Society.
The 57-year-old has campaigned for nearly 20 years to find out how contaminated blood was given to him and his brother Michael, who was also a haemophiliac and died from hepatitis C in 2005, aged 52.
A report has been published as a result of a two-year long inquiry in which authors branded it a "horrific human tragedy" and said they were "dismayed" at the delay from government and scientific agencies to respond to the dangers of hepatitis C and HIV infections.
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The £75,000 cost of the report was privately funded. It was set up by Labour peer Lord Morris of Manchester and led by Labour peer Lord Archer of Sandwell.
Mr Payne, a Labour city councillor for Frome Vale, said: "The first thing to say is that it's about time. We would have much preferred to have a public inquiry at the expense of the Government but thanks to Lord Morris and Lord Archer we have at last got an independent inquiry.
"All I ever wanted to know was what went wrong. A lot of my friends, and my brother included, have passed away as a result of what happened and we deserve an explanation.
"Many people have lost their lives, been unable to work and there are families who have lost their main breadwinner as a result of contamination from bad blood.
"I think it's right that they should be compensated.
"I am relatively lucky because although I got hepatitis C and I was given blood containing some concentrates of CJD I didn't get HIV.
"It was something of a shock at the time because we were never informed of the risks involved in having blood products.
"Haemophilia is incredibly painful anyway. It is a condition where the lack of a certain protein in the blood makes it difficult for the body to stop bleeding. Most of the bleeding I suffered is internal. I've bled so much into my knees over the years I have had to have them both replaced.
"When you are being offered treatment for a condition like that you take it and then ask questions later.
"I am a fan of the NHS. I think it is a wonderful institution but sometimes it gets things wrong and this was one of those times. But I have been treated by the NHS for 50 years and I am still here. I think they were taking the easier option in those days. I don't think it would happen now."
The report said there was "lethargic" progress towards national self-sufficiency in blood products in England and Wales in the 1970s and 1980s, where it took 13 years compared to just five years in Ireland.
As a result the NHS bought blood from US suppliers who used what became known as "skid row" donors, such as prison inmates more likely to have HIV and hepatitis C.
The report said: "It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that commercial interests took precedence over public health concerns.
"Whether the lack of urgency over much of this period arose from over-hesitant scientific advice or from a sluggish response by Government is now difficult to assess."
Nearly 2,000 haemophiliacs have died as a result of exposure to the contaminated blood in what leading medical expert Lord Winston called "the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS".
The report noted: "The haemophilia community feels that their plight has never been fully acknowledged or addressed."
The authors said a full public inquiry into the scandal should have been held much earlier.
They said: "Commercial priorities should never again override the interests of public health."
Recommendations in the report include compensation for victims.
Labour MP for Kingswood Roger Berry, a friend of the Payne family and member of the Haemophiliac Society Parliamentary Group, said: "Those who have been affected and their families deserve compensation for the clear negligence of the government of the time."