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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 15:12 GMT
Tainted blood probe sanctioned
Blood bag
Blood products were contaminated
A committee of MSPs has agreed to investigate why the blood transfusion service failed to introduce a test for hepatitis C earlier than 1987.

The pledge follows new evidence presented to the Scottish Parliament's health committee on Tuesday.

Members were told that health officials knew about precautions against the infection well before they were implemented.

The committee also placed on record its condemnation of Health Minister Susan Deacon's refusal to meet the Haemophilia Society which claims many haemophiliacs in Scotland were given untreated blood which contained hepatitis C.

Blood cells
The Haemophilia Society wants compensation
A Scottish Executive spokesman said after the committee meeting that the minister would be happy to meet with the Haemophilia Society to discuss "outstanding or wider" issues.

He added: "She considered that in their most recent request on the matter the society did not offer any new topics for discussion."

The group is now lobbying for compensation for its members and it has also demanded that the parliament hold an inquiry into how the tainted products were allowed into the system.

A Scottish Executive report published earlier this year into heat treatment of blood products in the 1980s found that the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service was not negligent.

It said that although Scotland was 18 months behind England in producing treated blood products, which eliminated hepatitis C, there were "understandable" technical reasons for this.

Minister rejects compensation

Of the 400 haemophiliacs in Scotland a number are known to have been infected with hepatitis C and in the last 15 years 15 patients have died of the disease.

In September 1985, Factor VIII blood product in England and Wales was being treated at 80C for 72 hours to give protection from viruses such as HIV, but this was not done in Scotland until April 1987.

The executive report said the technical processes were complex and the method used in England and Wales not proven to entirely eliminate viruses until further developed north of the Border.

It was during this period knowledge of hepatitis C, which attacks the liver, began to emerge and it was fully isolated in 1989.

Ms Deacon, has so far rejected both compensation for haemophiliacs and a public inquiry into the affair.

At the time the report was published she maintained an inquiry would not reveal any new factual information.

And she said the National Health Service did not, in principle, pay compensation when there was no evidence of negligence.

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See also:

24 Oct 00 | Scotland
Service cleared over blood virus
24 Oct 00 | Scotland
Hepatitis C - a timeline
10 Aug 00 | Scotland
Virus funding row help plea
01 Jun 00 | Scotland
Hepatitis C rise continues
29 Jul 99 | Health
Hepatitis C tests win approval
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
Blood: The risks of infection
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