Chester residents speak of their 'delight and shock' at tainted blood scandal probe

Reporter:

Steve Creswell

TWO victims of the tainted blood scandal from Chester have spoken of their delight and shock after the Prime Minister announced a public enquiry will be held.

Pregnant mum-of-two Debra Todd, 45, told the Leader she broke down in tears when she heard the news and hopes the truth will finally come out.

She said: “I’m delighted but I’m also absolutely stunned. I spent most of the day in tears.”

And Handbridge resident Neil Brown, 43, said: “Hopefully we will now find out who was guilty of this and they will be brought to justice.”

Said to be the worst scandal in NHS history, contaminated blood products have left more than 2,400 people dead and 1,200 terminally ill over the past five decades.

Between 1970 and 1991, almost all the haemophiliacs in the country were infected with HIV, Hepatitis C, or both, alongside thousands of others who became infected after undergoing blood transfusions.

This was because blood products imported from the USA were being taken from high-risk donors such as prisoners and prostitutes and then given to patients.

Many people were not told that they had contracted a disease so then went on to infect partners or their children.

Debra, a former teacher, contracted HIV through a former partner, a haemophiliac who was given contaminated blood products when he was a child.

Neil is a haemophiliac and contracted hepatitis C at the age of eight when he was given a contaminated blood transfusion.

The pair have been fighting for a Hillsborough-style enquiry for more than 18 months, alongside other victims and with the support of Chester MP Chris Matheson.

Announcing the enquiry on Tuesday, Theresa May said she had decided it was time to investigate the “appalling injustice”.

But Debra and Neil said the Prime Minister had only acted following pressure from other politicians and the media.

“She refused us point-blank before the General Election,” Debra said. “This decision only came because she was backed into a corner.

“This is decades overdue and it’s utterly shameful that so many have had to die fighting for truth and justice. It’s taken hands being forced and people digging around for two years.”

She added: “The crucial thing now is that it is carried out correctly. We need the correct type of enquiry; it must have the power to summon witnesses and order the release of all documents from the pharmaceutical companies involved.

“The goal is for the truth to come out and for those who are culpable to be held responsible, whoever they are - government officials, pharmaceutical companies or NHS people.”

Neil said he was “cautiously optimistic”, but many years of inaction by the authorities had left him cynical about how effective and efficient the enquiry may be.

“It’s the end of the beginning,” he said. “Time for the next stage now. For all the people who have lost loved ones it is time to get closure. We’ve been fighting this for years.”

Both said they had been left with health complications that have taken their toll both mentally and physically.

Neil underwent a liver transplant five years ago which still causes issues, and Debra struggled to have children. She and her partner now have two boys aged two and four who are uninfected and she’s expecting her third.

She said the fight for justice had left her needing therapy, and the threats under David Cameron and now Theresa May’s government that her “discretionary payments” would be hacked by £7,000 caused constant anxiety. Victims currently receive around £15,000 a year.

“We just don’t know where we are,” said Debra. “These payments and schemes are like begging bowls; we all feel like beggars with scraps thrown to us. We deserve proper compensation for what happened.”

Email:

steve.creswell@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Chester Leader

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