Since Haemophilia Scotland was established we have tried to report back as quickly as possible about all of our activities. Therefore, we wanted to keep you up to date with developments in the last couple of weeks since the UK Inquiry into the contaminated blood and blood products disaster was announced.
We received a copy of a letter from Diana Johnson MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Group (APPG) on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood to the Prime Minister which raised three main issues,
- That the Department of Health are not the appropriate department for overseeing the establishment of the Inquiry.
- The need for clarity on the timetable for establishing the Inquiry.
- The need to establish a safe repository for evidence which could be of interest to the Inquiry.
In our reply we supported these calls and provided information from our experience of the Penrose Inquiry to support her.
The Department of Health called a consultation meeting at short notice early in the morning in central London. The meeting was boycotted by the vast majority of campaign groups including The Haemophilia Society and Haemophilia Wales. Haemophilia Scotland neither joined the boycott nor attended the meeting. We are anxious to have a substantive conversation, on the powers and terms of reference of the Inquiry, but is clear that the Department of Health cannot be the responsible Department.
We have had a meeting with the Scottish Infected Blood Forum (SIBF) and agreed to work as closely as possible together with them, and other independent Scottish campaigners. We hope we can build on the relationships forged following the Penrose Inquiry to have a strong collective voice highlighting the Scottish dimensions to the establishment of the UK Inquiry.
To give everyone affected in Scotland a chance to feed into our collective thinking we are holding a joint members’ meeting at 2pm on Saturday 26th August in the Lomond Room of the Edinburgh Park (The Gyle) Premier Inn. This is a private meeting and so you must register if you want to attend. The meeting will discuss what lessons can be learnt in from the Penrose Inquiry and what we’d like to see in the terms of reference for the UK Inquiry. We have also jointly written to Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister, to ask her to ensure that Scottish Government engage with the Inquiry and urge the UK Government to work with those affected.
We joined a telephone conference call arranged by Diana Johnson MP and Sir Peter Bottomley MP as Co-chairs of the APPG. The purpose of the call was to hear from the Bishop of Liverpool who offered to act as an intermediary with the Government. The Bishop made it clear that he did not believe that the Department of Health were the appropriate part of Government to oversee the Inquiry. He also stated that he believed a proper consultation would take about six months. His remarks on timing are in line with the Government’s own guidelines on consultation.
Since the call, and following legal advice, some campaigners, have said they are not happy with this approach. They fear if the Bishop opens a dialogue with the Department of Health that could legitimise their involvement. Haemophilia Scotland is keen to work with the Bishop to find a way to find an appropriate part of Government to conduct a meaningful consultation.
Both Haemophilia Scotland and the Scottish Infected Blood Forum have approached Patrick McGuire at Thompsons Solicitors about continuing to represent us and he has agreed. Patrick and Thompsons bring the experience of having won a judicial review and secured a Public Inquiry and then representing the patient interest during it. It is our hope that Thompsons will be included on equal terms with any law firms working on group actions.
Finally, the Scottish Contaminated Blood Memorial Fund is continuing to raise funds for a lasting memorial to remember those affected by the disaster. Donations can be made online or by texting CBME23 and the amount to 70070. So, to donate ten pounds your text should read “CBME23 £10”.
The House of Commons Library has produced two briefing papers on Public Inquiries which will help anyone who would like to understand the various options in more detail.