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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Minister 'rules out' hep C inquiry
Malcolm Chisholm
Malcolm Chisholm said no to a public inquiry
Hepatitis C sufferers infected by contaminated NHS blood products have condemned a decision not to hold a public inquiry.

The angry reaction follows a meeting in Edinburgh between members of the Scottish Haemophilia Forum (SHF) with Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm.

The organisation has been putting its case for an inquiry into the affair, which left about 600 Scots suffering from the potentially-fatal liver disease.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said the minister did not see the need for a public inquiry at present.

I think that's quite appalling, given that the bodies who would have to be investigated are the Blood Transfusion Service, the health service and the minister's department itself
Frank Maguire
Solicitor advocate

The SHF said the minister had thrown out its demands entirely.

Solicitor advocate Frank Maguire, a lawyer representing hepatitis C sufferers, said the discussions had gone "very badly".

Mr Maguire said: "Having regard to the fact that in Scotland we have about 600 people who have been affected by hepatitis C, we asked the minister for a public inquiry but he has refused.

"I think that's quite appalling, given that the bodies who would have to be investigated are the Blood Transfusion Service, the health service and the minister's department itself.

"What have we got a Scottish Parliament for if 600 of our citizens are infected with the hepatitis C virus by going to the health service and he turns round and says we're not having an inquiry into it?"

Dave Bissett, vice-chairman of the SHF, said: "I just cannot understand how they can infect just under 600 people with a potentially killer virus and then find there's no need for a public inquiry."

Compensation scheme

A scheme of payments for those who contracted the virus announced earlier this year by the health minister was also criticised by the campaigners.

Under the terms of the scheme, those suffering the effects of the virus are entitled to 20,000, with a further 25,000 for those who have gone on to develop chronic conditions such as liver cancer.

The relatives of those who die after the executive announcement was made are also entitled to payments.

Mr Maguire insisted the conditions attached to the payments should be broadened - but said Mr Chisholm had refused to budge.

The minister has made clear that he will look carefully at any new evidence he is presented with
Scottish Executive spokeswoman
He said: "He's not going to give any increase on the payments.

"He's also set against paying anything to people whose relatives have died.

"We put to him the fundamental injustice, but he just said 'that's it', and didn't give us any justification."

However, the executive insisted the minister had not ruled out a public inquiry.

"He does not see the need for a public inquiry at present," said a spokeswoman.

"The minister has made clear that he will look carefully at any new evidence he is presented with."


SEE ALSO:
Hep C blood 'went untreated'
28 Sep 03  |  Scotland
Chisholm in hepatitis pledge
18 Sep 03  |  Scotland
Hepatitis sufferer's inquiry call
18 Mar 03  |  Scotland
Blood compensation 'derisory'
25 Feb 03  |  Scotland
The fight for Hep C compensation
17 Jan 03  |  Scotland
Minister intervenes in Hep C row
17 Jan 03  |  Scotland
Hep' C victims 'should get cash'
06 Nov 02  |  Scotland


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