Apology is wanted by patients who are contaminated by tainted blood

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IT WAS a transfusion that was supposed to help Sally Vickers deal with a blood condition, but she says it has given her a death sentence.

hose are the stern words from the 53-year-old who was pumped full of contaminated blood more than 30 years ago.

Alan Vickers with his wife Sally Vickers who wants the government to apologise for mistakes made in the past. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150024-3)

Alan Vickers with his wife Sally Vickers who wants the government to apologise for mistakes made in the past. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150024-3)

As a result she contracted hepatitis C – a condition that affects the liver – and has resulted in her giving up work, feeling tired and knowing it could one day kill her because the condition she was born with stops her getting treatment for the virus.

Mrs Vickers, of Railway View, Landport, is calling for a Hillsborough-style investigation into the government’s handling of contaminated blood and an official apology.

She said: ‘I’m fighting two diseases – one that I was born with and another that I was given.

‘One is killing my liver and the other my spleen.

15/01/15  PM''Alan Vickers from Portsmouth with his wife Sally Vickers who wants the Government to apologise for mistakes made in the past which culminated in her being given a contaminated blood transfusion which has left her with Hepatitis C.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150024-6) PPP-150115-164045003

15/01/15 PM''Alan Vickers from Portsmouth with his wife Sally Vickers who wants the Government to apologise for mistakes made in the past which culminated in her being given a contaminated blood transfusion which has left her with Hepatitis C.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150024-6) PPP-150115-164045003

‘Because of my hereditary spherocytosis, I cannot have the treatment for hepatitis C as the treatment would literally kill me or at the least destroy my already severely-enlarged spleen.’

Mrs Vickers, a former communications officer for the Ministry of Defence, was born with a condition that causes her to have odd-shaped blood cells.

At 14, glandular fever made Mrs Vickers so ill she needed to have a blood transfusion at the former St Mary’s Blood Unit, in Milton.

What she did not find out until 2004, was the blood given was contaminated with hepatitis C, as before 1991, the government did not screen for the virus.

She said: ‘I was always making trips to the doctors after my transfusion, and it got to the point where I felt like they looked at me and thought “not her again”.

‘I had a second transfusion several years later and I had a hysterectomy, yet no one thought to test me for hepatitis C.

‘Ten years ago I was rushed to Queen Alexandra Hospital and while I was talking to a doctor I mentioned my first transfusion.

‘Something clicked for him and I was tested for the virus.

‘I was so shocked to see I was positive, it knocked me sideways and it has been horrendous.

‘My whole life has changed and I’m angry that the buck has been passed from government to government.

‘I want them to acknowledge the disaster the NHS made.’

Mrs Vickers is not alone. Thousands of people have been affected – including 52-year-old Jackie Britton, from Portchester.

About 32 years ago she needed four units of blood when after she gave birth to her daughter Annaliese.

For Jackie, the diagnosis came after months of feeling sick and tired. Her GP sent her for blood tests in June 2011 and within a month she’d been given the shocking news.

Annaliese was only eight or nine days old when Jackie suffered a massive bleed at home and was treated with a transfusion at Portsmouth’s St Mary’s Hospital.

She said: ‘I want the government to apologise – how could this have happened in such a way?

‘We want to make the public aware of what happened and what we’re having to live with.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘This is a very serious issue and we are looking at possible improvements to the system of providing support to those affected.’

Timeline

THE majority of people affected by the tainted blood scandal were haemophiliacs.

Haemophilia is a genetic condition where the liver doesn’t produce the clotting protein needed for blood, in order to heal when a person cuts themselves.

Mid-60s: A new pooled-plasma product was introduced where blood was made from thousands of donors.

The Department of Health introduced this and people were changed on to this product, despite proof it held a much higher risk of infecting people.

According to charity Tainted Blood Info, people were switched on to this new product without consent or consultation.

The UK did not develop a self-sufficient supply and ended up sourcing prisoners’ blood or importing products from the USA.

Paid donors included prisoners, injecting drug addicts, prostitutes and homeless people.

All were high risk for being infected with hepatitis viruses and, from the 1980s onwards, HIV too.

1991: The government introduced screening blood products for hepatitis C after three decades of donating blood without doing so.

Due to lack of screening the virus hepatitis C was passed on to as many as 250,000 people.

But fewer than half know about it because they have no symptoms.

The blood-borne virus mainly infects the cells of the liver and can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer.

2004: People who have been infected with hepatitis C because of a pre-1991 blood transfusion can apply for compensation via the Skipton Fund.

Set up by the Department of Health, beneficiaries have to prove they’ve not contracted the virus because of drug use, infected tattoo needle or other risk factor.

2005: The Lord Penrose Public Inquiry was launched by the Scottish government to investigate, the £12m report is due out in March this year.

MPs call for matter to be resolved quickly

A BACKBENCH debate took place in Parliament where MPs called for a fresh look into the scandal and the payment victims get.

Alistair Burt, MP for North East Bedfordshire, brought the motion forward.

Caroline Dinenage, MP for Gosport, was at the debate.

She said: ‘This is an extremely big issue.

‘On the scale of domestic issues, this is the 15th biggest non-war related disaster.

‘The biggest was the plague and others also include the mining disasters.

‘But this has taken around 1,000 lives.

‘And people’s lives have been massively changed by being given contaminated blood by the government.

‘And in some cases where a few members of the same family had haemophilia, the condition has been passed on to more than one person.’

A call for a Hillsborough-style investigation have also been made.

Ms Dinenage added: ‘I support those who are seeking an apology from the government.

‘I’m not sure an inquiry will help, but if that’s what people want then I will support my constituents.’

Fareham MP Mark Hoban was also present.

He said: ‘I have written to Jeremy Hunt, following this debate.

‘We need to have some urgency in order to resolve this matter promptly.’

Blood campaign group sets out its goals

IT’S a group campaigning for the rights of all those infected with hepatitis C through tainted blood transfusions.

The Contaminated Blood Campaign was launched in 2002, with these aims:

- Campaign for the distinction between two stages of hepatitis C Virus to be removed.

The group said that this unfounded distinction prevents around 80 per cent of victims from claiming financial help.

- A full judicial public inquiry, with all the power of the law to call upon those responsible for the disaster to give evidence under oath to determine who was responsible.

- Comprehensive, routine health checks and care that take into account the full range of health defects linked to hepatitis C in addition to liver disease.

- Provision of medical permit cards, enabling access to priority medical treatment in all aspects of healthcare, with assurance of funding for the best treatment options available.

The campaign group is calling for this to be extended to all those infected with any disease through contaminated blood and/or blood products.

- Full financial compensation for the suffering and financial hardship caused by infections contracted through blood and blood products – to be awarded to those infected, as well as any family members whose lives have been affected.

- The government acknowledge that hepatitis C is much more than liver disease.

Most sufferers are prevented from reaching their full earning potential, not necessarily because of liver damage, but because of the numerous extra-hepatic manifestations they struggle with.

To find out more, visit cbcuk.org.uk

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