Government delays Blood Scandal Inquiry and withholds evidence from families

An Inquiry into the biggest disaster in the history of the NHS was announced in July 2017 to investigate how thousands of Haemophiliacs became infected with Hepatitis C and HIV in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but now almost 1 year on, the Inquiry has still not started and there are still no Terms of Reference.

While the Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower Fire took just 2 months to publish its Terms of Reference last year, the thousands of victims and families affected by the Contaminated Blood Scandal are still waiting and they are still dying. More than 70 have died since the Inquiry was announced.

Jason Evans, who is the founder of the campaign group Factor 8, said his organisation was this month dealt yet another underhand manoeuvre from the Government.

Over the last 18 months Jason has submitted over 250 Freedom of Information requests to get answers and find evidence relating to the scandal which killed his Father, but on the 4th June 2018 the Department of Health told Jason that releasing any more evidence to him would not be appropriate and that “the public interest is better served by withholding this information”.

In turn the Department has cancelled up to 50 pending requests for information that he had requested regarding the existence of relevant files. For 2 years Department of Health Ministers have stated in Parliament that all evidence relating to the scandal had been published but through a meticulous cross-referencing exercise and Freedom of Information requests, it was discovered that this was not the case, and that in fact the Government was holding tens of thousands of pages of evidence that they have not made public.

Jason and fellow campaigners are now concerned that delays in establishing the Public Inquiry are directly related to this latest twist of withholding information, as well as the Group Litigation before the High Court, and he alleges this could buy Civil Servants time to destroy valuable evidence.

Lord David Owen who was Health Minister in the 1970’s has said that all of his Ministerial files relating to the Scandal were destroyed without his knowledge. He calls it a cover-up.

Campaigners mounted pressure on the Cabinet Office and Inquiry in a joint letter this week urging them to publish Terms of Reference so that the Inquiry can begin and therefore accrue its powers to demand evidence is handed over.

Lib Dem member of the House of Lords, Baroness Lynne Featherstone, has written to the Department of Health this week over the withholding of evidence debacle and Oxford West & Abingdon MP Layla Moran has raised concerns with the Cabinet Office Minister (David Lidington) over the Inquiry delays.

Conservative MP Rachel Maclean said today:

I’m truly sorry to hear of these delays. I’ve just raised it directly with the ministerial team to ask them for answers.
— https://twitter.com/redditchrachel/status/1004620979585372160

Des Collins of Collins Solicitors, representing victims and families said:

Yet again the thousands of victims and their families affected by this dreadful scandal are having to put up with silence and uncertainty. It is time for the promised Inquiry to get underway and the world can hear how this scandal came about and the appalling situation so many people have had to put up with for so long.
— Des Collins, Collins Solicitors
 Chronology of Inquiry Delay

Chronology of Inquiry Delay