Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Health secretary apologises to victims of infected blood scandal

05 Jun 2024 6 minute read
Health Secretary Eluned Morgan. Photo Welsh Government

Chris HainesICNN Senedd reporter

Wales’ health secretary apologised to victims of the contaminated blood scandal, describing it as the greatest treatment scandal in the history of the health service.

Leading a Senedd debate on the infected blood inquiry, Eluned Morgan said the Welsh Government has started work to consider Sir Brian Langstaff’s recommendations.

More than 30,000 people in the UK were infected with HIV or hepatitis C by contaminated blood between 1970 and 1991, with more than 3,000 people dying as a result.

She said: “We must do better than the denials, the false reassurances, the complacency, the cover-ups, the obfuscations and the repeated failures at an individual, institutional and government level that characterised and compounded this awful tragedy.”

Although the scandal predates devolution by decades, Baroness Morgan apologised to all those who were infected with tainted blood or have been affected by the disaster.

‘Utterly damning’

Mabon ap Gwynfor told the chamber Sir Brian’s report was an “utterly damning indictment of an entrenched culture of institutional abuse, governmental neglect and political obfuscation”.

Plaid Cymru’s shadow health secretary hoped the report would prove a watershed moment in addressing an imbalance of power at the heart of the criminal justice system.

He said: “From the Hillsborough disaster to the Post Office Horizon scandal, the wheels of justice can often turn far too slowly when it comes to the misdemeanours of the wealthy.”

Sam Rowlands,his Conservative counterpart, described the infected blood scandal as one of the most grotesque miscarriages of justice in British history.

He welcomed the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which will create an arm’s-length body to administer compensation to victims, passing through Parliament pre-general election.

‘Terrifying ordeal’

Julie Morgan, who has campaigned on the issue for decades as an MS and an MP for Cardiff North, paid tribute to those who had their lives incomprehensibly turned upside down.

She said: “When haemophilia patients were told about their HIV diagnosis, it was a terrifying ordeal – a death sentence, with life-expectancy estimates of between two and five years.

“The stigma was horrendous and the majority of patients kept their status secret.”

Stressing the importance of implementing the recommendations, Ms Morgan warned many people are worried about false hope because it has taken 40 years to get to this point.

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth, who chairs the Senedd’s cross-party group on haemophilia and infected blood, agreed that the fight for justice must continue.

‘Devastating impact’

Mark Isherwood, the Conservative MS for North Wales, said the five-year inquiry found infected blood was not an accident and was avoidable.

He said: “Contaminated blood has had and continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of thousands of infected people and their families.”

John Griffiths, a Labour backbencher, who has represented Newport East since 1999, joined other members in paying tribute to campaigner Lynne Kelly, who chairs Haemophilia Wales.

Highlighting the stigma around HIV/AIDS at the time, he said the family home of Colin John Smith, who died aged seven weighing only 13lb, was daubed with abuse and graffiti.

Mr Griffiths told the chamber: “It was a terrible scandal and indictment of the systems at the time – and so many families suffered in the way that these families did.”

‘Unforgivable’

Plaid Cymru’s Sioned Williams raised the concerns of two sisters from the Swansea valley, whose father Arwyn Davies died in 1992 due to the “appalling, unforgivable” scandal.

She said: “To date, children who lost parents, like Rhian and Sharon, have never been provided with compensation or recognition of their father’s death. They haven’t even received a letter of apology from their local health board.”

Hefin David, who is vice-chair of the cross-party group, paid tribute to campaigners in his constituency, including Nicholas Moran, Susan Hughes, Janet Morgan, and Kirk Ellis.

Wearing a tie in the campaign’s colours, the Labour MS for Caerphilly raised Mr Ellis’ concerns about the UK Government’s proposed lump-sum compensation scheme.

Dr David said: “He points out that in Scotland the Scottish Government has guaranteed that ongoing current support payments are for life, as well as the lump-sum compensation payments proposed by the UK Government in response to Sir Brian’s report.”

‘Criminal cover-up’

Plaid Cymru’s Luke Fletcher said Debroah James, a constituent from Bridgend, has fought for 42 years to uncover the truth of the death of her brother, who was a police officer.

He said: “People in positions of authority vilified these families for raising concerns, accused them of lying, accused them of giving life to rumours. Corruption is the long and short of it, isn’t it – a bid to save money. What an indictment of our system.”

Labour backbencher Jenny Rathbone agreed that it is more than a treatment scandal, saying: “This is about a criminal cover-up.”

The Cardiff Central MS backed Sir Brian’s calls for a legal duty of candour for civil servants and ministers to ensure they are not “continuing to be less than candid with the truth”.

She welcomed Mark Drakeford introducing a duty of candour in NHS Wales last year, stressing the need to ensure it extends to leaders in the health service.

‘Never again’

Acknowledging concerns about unrecognised cases, Baroness Morgan said part of the issue is problems with NHS records that are required to make compensation claims.

She said the Welsh Government has established a new infected blood inquiry group, chaired by Push Mangat, the new deputy chief medical officer, to consider the next steps.

She explained: “It will work with health boards, the Welsh Blood Service, Public Health Wales and policy officials to ensure we look at the wrongs of the past and work together to ensure this can never happen again.”

Closing the debate on June 4, Baroness Morgan said: “Tonight I think we unite as a chamber and as a parliament, and I’m sure you’ll join with me to pay tribute to those who have suffered as a result of this – the greatest scandal in the history of the NHS.”

MSs unanimously supported the Welsh Government motion and Plaid Cymru amendments.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
3 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 hour ago

The Baroness sounds very familiar with all the dodges…

A criminal cover-up by professionals and above against the people…

The Modus Operandi of our ‘betters’…

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
24 minutes ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Don’t forget this occured before devolution while the tories were in power in westminster and they are the only ones to blame for this scandal.

There should be criminal prosecutions but, as usual, the guilty get away with it when it is those in power that are responsible!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
3 minutes ago

Meanwhile in Kerala, India, the BJP (Modi) party win their first ever seat…Our dear Baroness and friends were there recently and Cymru signs a Memorandum of Understanding re health professionals last March. I wonder how much spin this gave Modi…@Wales Empire Games…

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.