Scotland agrees to testify in UK blood infection inquiry

The Scottish Government has confirmed that it will be a key witness at a UK-wide public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal which saw thousands of Scots infected with illnesses such as hepatitis while undergoing treatment on the NHS.

Victims of the blood infection scandal have only received two nominal payments from the UK government
Victims of the blood infection scandal have only received two nominal payments from the UK government

The government has been asked to be a “core participant” in the inquiry, which is ongoing in London – and which victims hope could result in a compensation payment, more than 30 years after the tragedy unfolded.

It is estimated that about 3,000 Scots were infected with hepatitis C and HIV through NHS blood transfusions and blood products in the 1970s through to the early 1990s.

The government’s involvement comes three years after a separate Scottish inquiry into the scandal, led by Lord Penrose. The Penrose inquiry was branded a whitewash after it came back with just a single recommendation that anyone in Scotland who had a blood transfusion before 1991 should be tested for Hepatitis C and failed to make any recommendation of compensation for victims.

Gill Fyffe contracted hepatitis C after a transfusion

Now the Scottish Government has confirmed to Scotland on Sunday that it will give evidence at hearings in London early next year, although a spokesman for the Infected Blood Inquiry said that it had not yet officially responded to a request to take part.

Edinburgh woman Gill Fyffe, who contracted hepatitis C in 1988 after a blood transfusion following complications at the birth of her daughter, said that a “collaborative” approach between governments was necessary to ensure that all victims are given the same level of compensation.

Fyffe, who has been left with a life-long sensitivity to light caused by the drugs she was given to cure the illness, is unable to go out in daylight or endure electric light for long periods of time.

Fyffe said: “In the end, I think the Scottish Government will have to cooperate. There will be huge pressure for the government to have parity of compensation. It would be better to do it in the spirit of cooperation.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We are cooperating with the Infected Blood Inquiry and have already provided initial written evidence.

“We will of course give evidence at the inquiry if we are asked to do so. The Scottish Government is in the process of becoming a core participant in the inquiry.”

The current inquiry, headed by Sir Brian Langstaff, involves victims from across the UK. It will be more wide-ranging than the Scottish inquiry, taking into account the effect of the scandal on both those who are currently infected by blood-borne diseases and those who still suffer from their medical and financial consequences.

Previously, those infected with contaminated blood have been given two nominal payouts by the UK government, branded a “charitable donation”.