The Infected Blood Inquiry: Parents told children were HIV positive were unaware they had been tested
The Infected Blood Inquiry has been told 21 children became infected with HIV as a result of their treatment at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (RHSC) at Yorkhill in Glasgow in the early 1980s.
Dr Anna Pettigrew, a clinical assistant in the haematology department at the RHSC from 1980-1989, said it was an "awful moment" when staff at the hospital discovered some of their patients were infected after stored samples were tested for the virus.
Asked how parents were told their child was infected, she said after she learned of the news in 1985 she would tell them if she saw them in the hospital or she and a colleague would inform them when they brought their child in for their next routine appointment.
Jenni Richards QC asked: "Does it follow they would have had no advance notice or preparation for the news that was going to be broken to them because they didn't even know their child had been tested?"
Dr Pettigrew replied: "I think that's fair, I think there was a high index of suspicion among them that their child was at risk of being infected but certainly they they would not have known that they were going to be told."
She said it was generally mothers who were at the hospital on their own, with no support.
Dr Pettigrew said "with hindsight" it would have been better to work out a way to give the news to both parents at the same time.
Reflecting on telling parents the news, she said: "It was a very, very distressing experience because we knew these mothers, I knew these children, we had watched them growing up.
"It was a very distressing experience to have to explain to the parents that this had happened to their child.
"It was an awful time."
She said she had thought about it many times over the years, adding: "I knew that some of these children had died.
"It is just an awful, awful awful tragedy."
Dr Pettigrew also told the inquiry there was no specific policy of informing parents about the risk associated with blood products such as factor concentrates when it emerged in 1983 and 1984 that there may be a link between such products and Aids, although they would have discussed the issues with them if they were asked.
Ms Richards asked: "Do you accept that as a matter of principle that the parents of boys at Yorkhill had a right to know that factor concentrates might infect their children with a fatal disease for which there was no treatment?"
Dr Pettigrew said it was a time of confusion and evolving evidence but they "could have done it better".
Thousands of patients across the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C - which was previously known as non-A, non-B hepatitis - through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
The UK-wide inquiry, taking place before chairman Sir Brian Langstaff, continues.
Reporting by PA
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