'Many thousands more could be infected by contaminated blood scandal'

Those responsible for the worst treatment disaster to hit the NHS need to be held to account, a victim from Yorkshire has said.

Hull North MP Diana Johnson
Hull North MP Diana Johnson

A public inquiry will consider the treatment of thousands of people in the 1970s and 1980s who were given blood products infected with hepatitis viruses and HIV, and the impact this has had.

Retired engineer Glenn Wilkinson, 54, from Hull, spoke as the probe into the deaths of more than 2,400 people who were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C as a result of the scandal began in London.

He said: "We know that the Government missed multiple opportunities to stop the infected blood products getting into our bodies.

"They were warned multiple times and they failed on every occasion which led to so many people being infected.

"We are talking about a community of people being infected with the most horrendous diseases."

Mr Wilkinson was infected with hepatitis C aged just 19, after a blood transfusion while getting three teeth removed at Hull Royal Infirmary in 1983.

He contacted Hull MP Diana Johnson, in 2010 and she has since become an "absolutely relentless" campaigner and co chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood.

Mr Wilkinson said people could think "it doesn't affect me", because they don't have hemophilia.

But in fact anyone who had a blood transfusion prior to 1992 could be at risk, and victims include women who became infected after childbirth, people who had transplants or were on dialysis.

He said: "There will be many thousands who don't know it - Hepatitis C has been called the silent killer.

"Let's hope finally after three decades of fighting and being consistently ignored that we are going to finally get answers.

"This inquiry has absolutely nothing to do with compensation - it will not discuss compensation.

"All we want is answers - why, who knew about these infections and what could have been done differently."

Michelle Tolley, from Sparham, Norfolk, was infected following a blood transfusion after the birth of her child in 1987 and another in 1991. She found out in 2015 she had Hepatits C and described how waking up every day she feels as though she is "waiting to die."

Sher said: "I feel we have been given a death sentence without committing any crime.

"I have got a death sentence hanging over my head."

Ms Johnson said the inquiry was the first to have the full powers of a Judge-led inquiry and former Ministers could be compelled to give evidence.

"There is a list of Ministers in the health department who will be asked to explain what happened when they were ministers, " she said.

Chairman of the inquiry, retired judge, Sir Brian Langstaff, addressed the hundreds of people who attended the start of the Infected Blood Inquiry in London on Monday.

"It is a truly sobering thought that if some of the claims are well-founded - and it is for this inquiry to find out if they are - there may yet be many thousands more who do not feel well, but have not yet been told that the reason for this is that they suffer from Hepatitis C," he said.

Sir Brian said it is estimated that the number of infected could go far beyond 25,000 adding that there is a "real chance that these estimates may prove right".