Lord Penrose made just one recommendation that,
the Scottish Government takes all reasonable steps to offer an HCV test to everyone in Scotland who had a blood transfusion before September 1991 and who has not been tested for HCV
In response, the Scottish Government asked Health Protection Scotland to establish a that a Short-Life Working Group to bring forward recommendations about what practical steps could be taken to implement the recommendation from the Inquiry.
The group unanimously made three recommendations,
- Delivering a targeted awareness campaign focused solely on individuals who received a blood transfusion pre-September 1991. This awareness campaign should aim to reach all targeted individuals through the use of (e.g. leaflets and posters) and more modern (e.g. social media) approaches. Such approaches recognize that an appreciable minority of people do not access information from more traditional sources. The details surrounding the design and implementation of the campaign would be worked on following any such Scottish Government approval. The SLWG agreed that any such campaign should be evaluated to determine its impact.
- The identification and written offer of an HCV test to a group (up to 71) of plasma product factor recipients who are as yet not known to have been HCV tested.
- A Chief Medical Officer letter should be sent to all clinicians in Scotland to remind them of certain risk factors (including pre-September 1991 blood transfusion and injecting drug use) and clinical (including otherwise unexplained Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) liver enzyme level) indicators for HCV infection and making them aware of the recent advances in therapy and thus the benefits of HCV testing.
All three recommendations of the Short-Life Working Group are being implemented by the Scottish Government, with work already well underway. The public awareness campaign, for example, is due to be launched later this month.
Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing, and Sport, Shona Robison MSP has said,
…I have today accepted all these recommendations to ensure that everything possible is done to find people who may have been infected and offer them the best care and treatment. …I would urge anyone who thinks they had a blood transfusion before September 1991 to seek advice from the Hepatitis helpline or their GP practice about a test if they have not yet done so.
Haemophilia Scotland CEO, Dan Farthing-Sykes, who served on the group said,
Perhaps the most surprising recommendation to the bleeding disorders community in Scotland will be Recommendation 2. The names referred to were uncovered by the look-back exercise conducted by the United Kingdom Haemophilia Centre Doctors’ Organisation (UKHCDO) on behalf of the Haemophilia Alliance. They are individuals who are thought to have received treatment in a Scottish Haemophilia Centre during the relevant period who have been lost to follow-up. These efforts to find them are vital both in terms of their likely infection and the proper care of their bleeding disorder.
I know contaminated blood campaigners will be also be interested that the statistical work conducted as part of this process. That work concluded that ‘the number of [living] undiagnosed HCV-infected people, having acquired their HCV in Scotland as a result of blood transfusion pre-1991, is within the range of 0 and 63’. In fact, it is thought to be as low as 32, once those who have been diagnosed in other ways are taken into account. This in stark contrast to the figures of tens of thousands across the UK which have been suggested in the past. Those higher figures have often been given as a reason that the levels of financial support couldn’t be at set at more appropriate levels.