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Friday, 6 August, 1999, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Ministers in new haemophilia probe
Factor VIII
The blood was treated at too low a temperature
Scottish ministers have promised to examine the cases of haemophiliacs who may have been given blood contaminated with Hepatitis C for up to a year after the government said it was safe.

The announcement - which follows a BBC investigation - came as calls grew for compensation for sufferers.

Officials from the Scottish Executive are to meet the Haemophilia Society to hear the details of their complaints and the matter might then be raised in the Scottish Parliament.

Sufferers who have contracted hepatitis hope to persuade the parliament to debate the issue as a first step towards getting compensation.

Haemophilia is a bleeding disorder which is treated by injecting a blood product known as Factor VIII.

Towards the end of the 1970s, it became apparent that a number of haemophiliacs were becoming infected with HIV or Hepatitis C through contaminated blood.

Heat treatment

In 1984, Scotland became the first part of Britain to introduce blood heat treatment to kill off any viruses. England followed suit a year later.

In 1986, the government declared there was no longer any risk to the public from contaminated blood.

But it has just emerged that in Scotland, the blood was not being treated at a sufficiently high temperature and may still have been contaminated until 1987.

The Scottish Blood Transfusion Service confirmed it took an extra six to 12 months to bring the safer method of treatment on stream but has denied negligence.

Professor Ian Franklin, Medical and Scientific Director for the service, said that it moved as quickly as possible in Scotland to implement advances which had been made south of the border.

He said: "As soon as scientists in Scotland were aware of advances the English had made, we set about implementing them. By the time of the proof that Hepatitis C was prevented by this process, we had already implemented it.

"We are always concerned to try and make sure our products transmit no virus infections if possible and there was - and still is - a continuous process of trying to improve our products.

"It was simply that the English scientists developed it first and we adapted it absolutely as quickly as we could," he added.

Unlike haemophiliacs who contracted HIV, the government has refused to give compensation to Hepatitis C sufferers.

Compensation call

The Scottish National Party has called on the Scottish Executive to look at the case for compensation.

Deputy Leader John Swinney MSP has already raised in the House of Commons the plight of constituents who have contracted Hepatitis C as a result of their treatment for haemophilia.

He said: "My constituents and other members of the Haemophilia Society have been attempting for a number of years to have a fair hearing of their case for compensation.

"However, after numerous attempts, they have continually hit a brick wall.

"In light of the news that blood supplies in Scotland were being treated at a lower temperature than in other parts of the UK, I will be calling on the Scottish Executive to outline their position on how they intend to look at the case for compensation.

He added: "I have also tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions in an attempt to find some answers to the many questions being asked by the sufferers across the country."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Video
BBC Scotland's Health Correspondent Abeer Parkes reports
Audio
Health Correspondent Abeer Parkes reports on the background
See also:

22 Jul 98 | Health
Hepatitis sufferers on the march
22 Jul 98 | UK Politics
Hepatitis sufferers in Commons protest
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
Blood: The risks of infection
29 Jul 99 | Health
Hepatitis C tests win approval
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