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Widow angered at leaked papers on scandal costs; Infected blood led to husband's death.

Byline: Helen Rae

AWIDOW whose haemophiliac husband died after receiving contaminated blood is angered at leaked documents showing Government viewed those affected by the bad blood scandal as simply a set of "cost figures".

Papers leaked to a national newspaper show health officials were pre-occupied with controlling costs as the scandal of HIV - and hepatitis C - infected blood transfusions threatened the lives of haemophiliacs in the 1980s.

Carol Grayson, of Jesmond, Newcastle, lost her haemophiliac husband Peter Longstaff in 2005 after he contracted HIV and hepatitis C from infected NHS blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ms Grayson, a former nurse has constantly campaigned for compensation for victims of infected NHS blood transfusions.

But memos exchanged within the Department of Health in March 1985 discuss the extent to which the HIV infection would be likely to spread through the community. Official, Michael Lloyd, warned about a third of Britain's haemophiliacs were "sero-positive", meaning they had antibodies to the virus that later came to be called HIV. About 8% each year and ultimately 40% of the total would develop Aids, he said.

The message's recipient, John James, calculated up to 1,200 of the 5,000 haemophiliacs could develop Aids, for which, at that time, there was no treatment.

"Frightening figures," he wrote. "But figures which also suggest that, however dispassionate the analysis, steps to prevent the remainder of the haemophiliac population becoming sero-positive are likely to have a strong cost-benefit plus in terms of lives saved.

"Of course the maintenance of the life of a haemophiliac is itself expensive, and I am very much afraid that those who are already doomed will generate savings which more than cover the cost of testing blood donations."

Ms Grayson said: "I am angry at what the health officials have said.

"Since the 1970s haemophiliacs have been treated as second-class citizens. When you look at all Government documents released by the Freedom of Information it is evident ministers wanted to save money and that was, and has always been, their main priority. These leaked papers should have been released a long time ago.

"Government granted us a public inquiry on the grounds all information was in the public domain. This shows once again Government gave misinformation and, in fact, not all information was in the public domain."

The papers were leaked as lawyers prepare for a judicial review later this week of the Government's response to an independent inquiry led by Lord Archer of Sandwell into the blood scandal.

In his report, published in February last year, Archer urged Government to renegotiate a fair, direct and comprehensive package with survivors and their families.

A total of 4,670 haemophiliacs were given blood contaminated with the hepatitis C virus and 1,200 were later infected with HIV in the 1970s and 80s. The blood products came from commercial organisations in America, whose paid donors included drug users and prison inmates.

More than 2,000 haemophiliacs who received the tainted blood are now dead.

Last May the then health minister, Dawn Primarolo, rejected campaigners' demands.

Ministers agreed that funding for trusts set up for those infected with HIV would be increased to allow annual payments of pounds 12,800 to each person but they offered no extra cash for those with hepatitis C.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 24, 2010
Words:553
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