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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 23:32 GMT
Files on infected blood destroyed
Blood bag
The government said it had accidentally destroyed the files
The UK Government has admitted that nearly all its files on the infection of patients through NHS blood products have been destroyed.

Hundreds of haemophiliacs and other patients were infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The government denied campaigners' claims of a cover-up and said it was a "regrettable" accident.

The row has deepened after infected blood was found to have been sourced from some prisoners in American jails.

They knew that these documents were relevant and they destroyed them, we think, as a cover-up
Andy Gunn

Inmates at a prison in Arkansas were paid $7 a time to give blood and an American documentary maker has since claimed that high risk donors were not always excluded.

The infected blood products were exported to the UK in the late 70s and early 80s, although the prison service has denied any wrongdoing.

Sufferers said the discovery adds further weight to their call for a public inquiry.

However the Department of Health has issued a statement which states that "the government of the day acted in good faith, relying on the technology available at that time ... therefore we don't feel a public inquiry would provide any real benefit to those affected."

'Cover up'

It has also since emerged that copies of some of the documents destroyed in error have already been released by the Scottish Executive.

Health Minister Andy Kerr met Scottish representatives of the Haemophilia Society in February last year.

He promised to make available the information held on the topic and passed on the documents in December.

"The information released in December by the executive will contain some copies of papers which will have been in the files destroyed by the Department of Health, and DoH is aware of this," said an executive spokesman.

The destruction of the documents by the UK Government was confirmed after Scottish campaigner Andy Gunn asked former health minister Lord Jenkin to examine the files.

Mr Gunn was infected with both HIV and hepatitis C after being given infected blood products as a child at Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow.

"These documents were supposed to be kept after the HIV litigation because they contained information about hep C, because it hadn't actually been informed at that time that we had hep C," he said.

Public inquiry

"They knew that these documents were relevant and they destroyed them, we think, as a cover-up."

Glasgow lawyer Frank Maguire, who represents more than 100 hepatitis C sufferers, said the revelations posed a number of questions.

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that only a full judicial inquiry would find the answers.

It could look into whether the destruction of the records was accidental, who gave the order and why they gave the order.

Andy Kerr
Andy Kerr agreed the release of information to campaigners

"We have got the government's word that it was accidental but let's get that subject to a judicial inquiry whereby people would be examined and cross-examined to find out if in fact it was a cover-up or whether it was just a case of gross negligence," he said.

Mr Maguire said a number of cases had been brought at the Court of Session in an attempt to force the Lord Advocate or Scotland's health minister to hold an inquiry.

Hepatitis C is a life-threatening condition which can lead to liver cancer.

Support groups for victims have spent many years calling for a public inquiry and compensation.

It emerged last month that 640 patients in Scotland who were infected with hepatitis C have been paid a total of 12m in compensation under a Scottish Executive scheme.

The figure came to light as MSPs voted against holding a public inquiry into the contamination of blood products in the 1980s.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
A man infected as a child talks about his experiences



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