What is the Penrose Inquiry?

What is the Penrose Inquiry?

What is the Penrose Inquiry?

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of National Health Service patients were inadvertently given contaminated blood products in one of the biggest treatment disasters ever. It is estimated that more than 2,000 people died as a result of the contaminated blood, which infected them with deadly diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C.


Decades later, and after years of campaigning, the Scottish government announced that it would hold a public inquiry into what went wrong, and who was responsible, in 2008. Scottish judge Lord Penrose, chairman of the Court of Heriot-Watt University, led the inquiry, which has cost £11m. It will report its findings on Wednesday.


What will the report include?

After six years looking into the scandal, the Penrose Inquiry has produced an 1,800 page report into what happened.


It will cover the scale of what took place at the time, as well as what has happened since. Around 7,500 people, many of them haemophiliacs, are known to have contracted HIV and hepatitis after being given blood products taken from high-risk donors such as prostitutes. Some then passed on their diseases to their partners or children, some needed organ transplants, and some died.


Experts believe that the full scale of the tragedy is not yet known: the numbers who were infected by the failure but who have not yet been detected or contacted could be tens of thousands.


Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to apologise in Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday after seeing the full report.


Why has it taken so long?

Many people believe that there was a cover-up around the scandal. Some patients report only getting letters about their contaminated blood seven years after treatment - by which time, they say, the chance for compensation was gone.


There has been no public inquiry in England yet over the issue, decades on: in 2009, Lord Archer led a privately-funded inquiry which recommended compensation for patients, but his recommendations were not implemented in full and, until now, there has been no official apology. Some support has been provided for victims and victims' families, but many have struggled and David Cameron has already promised to try and improve the situation for them - however, they say the situation is as bad as ever.


Lord Archer accepted at the time that apportioning blame was difficult, suggesting that US suppliers of the contaminated blood products were largely at fault, but he also condemned the slow response of the Government then as well as the "shameful" failure of successive administrations to investigate the tragedy and help patients with the ongoing issues caused by it.


The Penrose Inquiry only covers the Scottish NHS; but if David Cameron apologises as expected, those affected may be within their rights to expect wider implications. The Government is not likely to give its full response before the election, but it does intend to put aside extra money for victims.


What do the victims of the scandal want?

Many of the patients who received contaminated blood are expected to continue their fight for an overhaul of compensation payments following the Penrose report. They also want recognition of their suffering, and accountability from those in charge.


One sufferer, Gill Fyffe, recently told The Telegraph: “The Penrose Inquiry is about something more important than compensation. It is about accountability. To the thousands of people whose lives have been ruined by careless error, anything less is an insult.


“If Lord Penrose will demand accountability, and the courage which it costs, he will honour the courage my family have shown, alone and unsupported, for a quarter of a century.”





By Jennifer Rigby,


The Telegraph, Wednesday 25 March 2015




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