UK launches inquiry to examine deaths of 2,400 people in contaminated blood scandal

An inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal which has left 2,400 people dead in the UK is to be launched.

British Prime Minister Theresa May told the Cabinet she and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had decided a probe was needed.

Details of the UK-wide investigation have yet to be finalised, and consultations will take place with those people affected as to how best to proceed.

The Prime Minister's spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "Jeremy Hunt said that 2,400 people had died and it was necessary to establish the causes of this appalling injustice."

Mrs May's spokesman said the Prime Minister considered the contaminated blood situation a "scandal".

He said: "Consultation will now take place with those affected to decide exactly what form the inquiry will take, such as a Hillsborough-style independent panel or a judge-led statutory inquiry.

"It is a tragedy that has caused immeasurable hardship and pain for all those affected and a full inquiry to establish the truth of what happened is the right course of action to take.

"It is going to be a wide-ranging inquiry."

The spokesman said the decision to hold an investigation had been prompted by new evidence.

The move came just hours before MPs held an emergency debate on the contaminated blood scandal.

Commons Speaker John Bercow granted the debate after a request from Labour's Diana Johnson, who said ministers had failed to consider evidence of criminal activity.

Former minister Ms Johnson called the contaminated blood scandal "the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS".

The UK imported supplies of the clotting agent Factor VIII from the US, some of which turned out to be infected - and much of the plasma used to make the product came from donors like prison inmates in the US, who sold their blood.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the announcement of the inquiry, which he said should have the potential to trigger prosecutions.

"Two thousand four hundred people died as a result of this contaminated blood, and it's caused unbelievable stress to many, many more people," said Mr Corbyn.

"It was obviously a serious systemic failure. I think we need the strongest possible inquiry that can if necessary lead to prosecution actions as a result, but above all get to the bottom of it.

"A broad, public, inquisitive inquiry is very important."

The scandal involved haemophiliacs and other patients being infected with hepatitis C and HIV from blood products during the 1970s and 1980s.

Greater Manchester mayor and former health secretary Andy Burnham has repeatedly called for a Hillsborough-style probe into what happened.

Mr Burnham claimed in the Commons that a "criminal cover-up on an industrial scale" had taken place.

The former Cabinet minister said victims were used as "guinea pigs" and subjected to "slurs and smears" via falsified medical records.

Others had tests carried out without their knowledge or consent, with the results withheld "for decades in some cases" even when they revealed positive results.

Mr Burnham said it had also been suggested that the withholding of results led to infections being passed on to people living with the victims.

The British government move comes after the leaders of six political parties signed a letter calling for a public inquiry into the scandal.

The letter, which was backed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the DUP's Westminster head Nigel Dodds, said a fresh probe should look into allegations of a cover-up and claims that patients were not told of the risks, even after the dangers became clear.

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