North East Connected

“I hope they put victims at the centre of the inquiry”

A campaigner and University of Sunderland graduate who has spent 30 years fighting for justice after her husband died from contaminated blood fears a new public inquiry may not offer families the answers they need.

Carol Grayson’s husband, Peter Longstaff, died in April 2005 aged just 47. He had contracted HIV and hepatitis D and C from infected NHS blood products.

The contaminated blood scandal has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C via contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Infected Blood Inquiry started taking evidence in central London on Tuesday.

The probe will look into the treatment of thousands of people in the 1970s and 1980s, who were given blood products infected with hepatitis viruses and HIV, and the impact this had on their families.

Two previous inquiries have been branded a whitewash by campaigners.

Ms Grayson, 59, of Jesmond in Newcastle, fears the latest inquiry is attempting to bring two very different cases, each involving thousands of victims, under one roof.

She said: “The inquiry is trying to deal with two very different sets of circumstances.

“There were those who became infected after receiving transfusions from blood donated in this country. While, there were also a fewer number of people, including my husband, who became infected with blood brought over from America.”

Many contaminated blood victims had haemophilia, a blood-clotting disorder, and relied on regular injections of clotting agent Factor VIII, which was made from pooling human blood plasma.

At the time, Britain was running low on supplies of Factor VIII so imported products from the US, where prison inmates and others were paid cash for giving blood.

Ms Grayson, who was instrumental in bringing the scandal to light, partly through her dissertation during her MA at the University of Sunderland, is a core-participant witness in the inquiry.

She said: “This is something which really should have been done 20 years ago. Now, time has passed and the timeline over what happened has become confused.

“Also, tens of thousands of people, including families, have been affected by this, so it will be difficult for this inquiry to cover all that has happened.”

The Infected Blood Inquiry will hear from victims at the hearing in Fleetbank House, central London, before similar testimonies take place over the coming months in Belfast, Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

The inquiry is being chaired by former High Court judge Sir Brian Langstaff.

Ms Grayson, who carried out research and studied for a MA in Gender, Culture and Development at the University, traced the batch of blood given to her husband to a prison in Arkansas.

She said: “This has literally devastated our family. First my brother-in-law died in 1986, he was only 20, then my husband died in 2005.

“I hope they put victims at the centre of the inquiry and hope they are sensitive.

“They also need to deliver proper compensation to families who have suffered for decades.

“I think of Pete every day. I have not been able to move on in my life because there has been no justice. Without justice, without explanations, without apology, there’s no way forward.”

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