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Isabel Fraser reports
"The Haemophilia Society hoped devolution would provide a new political focus"
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Nigel Robson reports
"Ms Deacon says she's every sympathy for sufferers but defended the decision not to offer compensation"
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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 13:42 GMT
Service cleared over blood virus
Blood bag
The service was not negligent, the inquiry finds
An inquiry has cleared the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service of blame for haemophiliacs contracting hepatitis C from blood products in the 1980s.

More than 300 people received the virus through contaminated blood products, many of whom have been pressing for compensation.

The virus posed a threat in infecting vital blood products - such as factor VIII - the blood-clotting product used by haemophiliacs.

The Haemophilia Society has called the report "inadequate" and called for a full public inquiry.

I have concluded that there is no evidence that the relevant authorities did anything other than their best for patients

Health Minister Susan Deacon
Health Minister Susan Deacon ordered officials to investigate whether or not the service was negligent in its efforts to remove the risk of hepatitis C being contracted.

She has had the report on her desk since July, prompting accusations of "contempt" for not making it available sooner.

Their report concludes that the service "worked actively" during the 1980s to find a way of eliminating the virus.

It says the SNBTS did not develop successful heat treatment until after the Bio Products Laboratory (BPL), its counterpart in England.

The report concludes, however, that the technical processes involved were complex, and that the method used by BPL was not actually proven to eliminate the virus until after SNBTS had also managed to develop a comparable method.

Susan Deacon
Susan Deacon: Rejected compensation
Ms Deacon said: "The cases of people contracting hepatitis C in the 1980s are a real human tragedy.

"Having studied all the facts, I have concluded that there is no evidence that the relevant authorities did anything other than their best for patients.

"As a result I do not believe that the NHS should pay compensation for non-negligent harm to those haemophiliacs who contracted hepatitis C during the period covered by the report."

'Incomplete' work

The minister said she "fully understood" there would be disappointment at the outcome.

The Haemophilia Society 's chief executive Karen Pappenheim said: "This report is a very thin, incomplete piece of work which does not represent the full inquiry we were seeking.

"This is a wholly inadequate response to what has been described as one of the greatest treatment disasters in the history of modern medicine.

Blood cells
The Haemophilia Society is angry at the report
"This report is not enough and the Haemophilia Society will continue to push for a full public inquiry to ensure all the issues are dealt with."

The Scottish National Party's health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said: "I only wish that I could say its [the report] eventual release was worth the wait but it has been a whitewash.

"I have been bitterly disappointed by the lack of substance and the lack of support offered by Susan Deacon to haemophiliacs."

But Professor of haematology at Aberdeen University, Mike Greaves, described the report as "carefully researched and detailed".

"It is clear that the technical challenge of producing virus-free factor concentrates was substantial," he added.

"It is clear that the need for the rapid development of safer products was recognised by SNBTS and that timely and concerted efforts were made to this end."

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See also:

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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