Skip to comments.Blood Trail (UK): CRIMINAL PROBE into Bad Blood Considered
Posted on 08/19/2002 8:37:34 AM PDT by BLOODHOUND (askel5)
One of the country's top police officers has taken up the case of haemophiliacs who became infected with hepatitis C and HIV through contaminated blood products.
Terence Grange, in charge of investigations affecting forces across the country, is now looking at the legal issues involved in a prosecution over the way contaminated blood was used in the NHS.
Mr Grange, chief constable of Dyfed-Powys Police and chairman of the ACPO Personal Crime Business Area, is "in charge of any investigations of national importance which affect all forces across the UK".
He has received letters from haemophiliacs in Manchester, Kent and Newcastle - led by the North-East group Haemophilia Action UK- calling on him to launch a criminal investigation into the Government's involvement in allowing contaminated blood products to be imported into Britain and used on the NHS.
As a result of their treatment during the 70s and 80s, more than 1,500 haemophiliacs have died and thousands more are suffering. For years they have been fighting for a public inquiry and compensation from the Government which continued to import contaminated products from abroad, despite warnings from leading experts and the World Health Organisation about the risks of infection.
In a letter to the haemophiliacs, the chief constable has agreed that the issues raised are of concern and has contacted the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on a number of areas, including corporate liability.
In his letter, Mr Grange says: "The issues you raise in your letter are cause for grave concern.
"I have taken the liberty of referring the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service with a view to seeking clarification as to the issues we must consider prior to commencing any investigation.
"Once my consultation has been concluded I will contact you with any outcome and would then be in a better position to inform you of any assistance that can be provided by the police service."
Haemophilia Action UK chairwoman Carol Grayson of Jesmond, Newcastle, said last night his response was excellent news.
"We have been seeking answers for years and are still in the dark as to why people were given a product that was known to be infected."
Her partner, Peter Longstaff, is a haemophiliac who was infected with HIV and hepatitis C from contaminated blood used by the NHS to treat his condition. She said: "Many haemophiliacs have no faith in their national society and, despite years of campaigning, have had very little success in getting closer to the truth.
"We see a criminal investigation as the only route left open to us."
Peter Mossman, head of the Manor House Group based in Manchester, said: "If we can get justice this way, which seems to be the only way, then we are willing to fight for it."
In their letters to the police, the haemophiliacs called for an investigation into the "scandalous cover-up" that has led to so many deaths.
If a criminal investigation is launched it would be one of several being pursued against Governments and the pharmaceutical companies around the world. Investigations are already under way by the police in Canada, Japan, France and Italy.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "The letter refers to a matter in the hands of the police of which the Department has no knowledge and therefore cannot take a view or make any comment upon."
Last night, Mr Grange's office said there was nothing further to add to the letter at this stage.
The Journal launched a campaign to help victims of bad blood fight for justice and last year - in an exclusive interview with The Journal - former health minister Lord David Owen accused past governments of gross maladministration.
He said his commitment to use only British blood products was never fulfilled.
Hospital hit by vomiting bug
The mystery bug which has struck down 17 people at South Tyneside District Hospital has been confirmed as Winter Vomiting Disease.
The condition which is also known as SRSV and causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea virus hit the hospital in Harton Lane, South Shields, and forced health officials to close two wards to new admissions.
Dave Shilton, executive director of nursing and clinical governance with South Tyneside Health Care Trust, confirmed last night that the wards would be opened this morning and said only one patient was still receiving treatment for the bug.
He said: "It does look as if the bug which has been affecting staff and patients at the hospital over the past two weeks is now over. We have now received reports confirming it was SRSV.
"We expect the wards to be open as normal for new admissions."
The bug is the latest in a series of infections to hit the region's hospitals.
It emerged last week that 87 patients and 31 staff were treated for winter vomiting disease in an outbreak at North Tyneside Hospital.
And a sickness and diarrhoea bug affected 50 patients and 25 staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital in June.
Outbreak claims third life
A third person has died from the Legionnaires' disease epidemic in Cumbria.
Georgina Somerville, 54, from Barrow, died yesterday in the intensive care unit at Furness General Hospital.
Morecambe Hospitals NHS Trust, chief executive Ian Cumming said: "Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go out to the family of this lady who were with her when she died."
An inquest into her death will be opened and adjourned later this week.
Her death follows that of grandmother Wendy Millburn, 56, who died early on Friday.
Mrs Millburn was married for 36 years to husband Douglas and had two children and two grandchildren.
The first victim to die from Britain's biggest outbreak in a decade was former steelworker Richard Macaulay, 88, who died nearly two weeks ago.
But despite the latest death, doctors are confident that early predictions of 15 to 20 deaths will prove to be huge over-estimations.
This could be because victims of the disease were caught and treated early or because it has been caused by a weak strain of the bacteria.
There have been 125 confirmed cases since the outbreak was identified on August 2. Meanwhile, it was revealed yesterday that Barrow Borough Council could be facing a six-figure fine if it is held responsible.
The source of the outbreak is believed to have been the council-run Forum 28 Arts Centre in the centre of the shipbuilding town.
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