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Scale of NHS blood disaster 'horrifying', inquiry is told.

A former Conservative Social Services Secretary yesterday said he was "horrified" to discover after leaving his department how widespread the blood disaster which saw thousands exposed to HIV and Hepatitis C was.

The Rt Hon Lord Jenkin of Roding also said it had later been made clear to him that files relating to contaminated blood products had been destroyed as a "conscious decision".

The independent inquiry into how people were exposed to HIV and Hepatitis C during NHS treatment in the 1980s continued in central London yesterday.

More than 2,000 haemophiliacs died as a result of exposure to the viruses in what fertility expert Lord Winston dubbed "the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS".

Lord Jenkin was Secretary of State for Social Services between 1979 and 1981.

Long after leaving Government, he said he was "quite horrified" to find out how widespread the contamination was, particularly the emergence of Hepatitis C as a "serious scourge" and felt a duty to try to get hold of official papers to help sufferers, but his attempts to retrieve them he said were "chequered".

He told the hearing it was made clear to him that files relating to contaminated blood products had been destroyed as it was thought they would be of no further use.

"They had settled the HIV cases and it had not been thought necessary to keep the files," he said.

"It has been a conscious decision not to keep the files because it was thought there would be no further purpose."

But it was subsequently said that the destruction was an "error", he said, adding that he could not reconcile this with what he had initially been told.

Lord Archer adjourned the inquiry to July 11.

Hundreds of NHS blood service workers will stage lunchtime demonstrations today to protest against job cuts and closures if plans to close a number of processing sites goes ahead.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 15, 2007
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