Refusal to hold hepatitis inquiry attacked

HEALTH Minister Malcolm Chisholm has been attacked over his decision not to hold a public inquiry into Hepatitis C sufferers infected by contaminated NHS blood products.

Campaigners reacted angrily following a meeting in Edinburgh between members of the Scottish Haemophilia Forum (SHF) and the minister. 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.

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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?"

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

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

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 he will look carefully at any new evidence he is presented with."