Infected Blood Inquiry confirms NHS England did NOT circulate "do not destroy" notice
The Infected Blood Inquiry has today confirmed that following information provided to the Inquiry by Factor 8, that NHS England did not act upon Sir Brian Langstaff’s request last year to circulate a “do not destroy notice”.
Following arising suspicion, on 8th January 2019, Factor 8 began a process of contacting the majority of NHS Foundation Trust’s throughout the UK to ascertain whether or not they had received a notice in relation to retaining documents relevant to the Inquiry.
By January 14th 2019 a concerning trend based off initial response had emerged and the Inquiry were notified of Factor 8’s preliminary findings. Throughout January the Inquiry team were updated periodically as more responses were received and it eventually became evident that none of the NHS Trust’s (outside of Rule 9’s received directly from the Inquiry) had received such a notice in England.
Following action taken by the Infected Blood Inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff has today given the below statement which has been published on the Infected Blood Inquiry website:
On 5 July 2018 I wrote to the relevant heads of the NHS in the UK to request that no documents, files or paperwork that may be of interest to the Inquiry be destroyed. I wrote again on 12 December about the delays some people have been experiencing accessing medical records and asking for action.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the Inquiry’s request was circulated to all NHS Trusts, Foundation Trusts, Health Boards and other statutory bodies within those countries.
The Inquiry has learned, through the diligent work of Jason Evans and Factor 8, that this did not occur within the NHS in England. I am grateful to Jason Evans for bringing this matter to my attention.
NHS England apparently interpreted my request as applying only to itself as a stand-alone organisation. It is disappointing both that this narrow approach was taken when NHS England presents itself as leading the National Health Service in England, and that NHS England did not tell the Inquiry that it did not intend to pass my request on to Trusts, Foundation Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups.
Those people participating in the hearings – whether in London, Belfast, Leeds, Edinburgh, Cardiff or following at home – should not have to worry about accessing medical records, nor about current NHS record keeping, whatever criticisms there may be of its record keeping in
In these circumstances, and to avoid any further delay, I have instructed the Solicitor to the Inquiry to contact each NHS Trust, NHS Foundation Trust and Clinical Commissioning Group in England direct, rather than now relying on NHS England to do so. We will request and require that each Trust and Group retains all relevant documents and waives fees for people seeking copies of their medical records. I will also seek to determine whether any relevant documents (and if so which) are likely to have been destroyed in the meantime. I look for the fullest co-operation from NHS England in this.
I am being told that the great majority of people at the heart of this Inquiry have for years felt that they have been ignored, and that when they ask for information or explanation, are met with a wall of silence. Many have complained about being kept in the dark. I am determined that the Inquiry itself should not be a body against whom such allegations can be made. Whoever the participant is, whether a person, organisation or official body, trust in the work of the Inquiry can only be achieved through transparency. Accordingly, I have set out what did not happen, why it did not happen, and what is being done to put the position right.
Sir Brian Langstaff
Chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry
This statement was provided in advance to NHS England
Jason Evans (Founder of Factor 8) said:
I fail to see how the Chief Executive of NHS England could have misinterpreted such a basic request in relation to such a serious issue, with issues of such importance it's a sack-able offence in my opinion. He should resign.
I think an official apology and explanation directly from Simon Stevens must now happen, clearly he should stand down, he is not fit for the job.