Putting the Department of Health in charge of a planned inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal would be akin to putting South Yorkshire Police in charge of the Hillsborough disaster investigation, an MP has claimed.
Labour’s Diana Johnson tabled an urgent question on the final day of Parliament after writing to the prime minister to ask that the department be barred from conducting the probe or setting out its scope due to its direct involvement in the tragedy.
She said: “I, along with the vast majority of affected people, their families, campaign groups and legal representatives, as well as many cross-party Parliamentarians, are dismayed to see the Department of Health leading on establishment of this inquiry.
“An implicated party at the heart of so much that has gone wrong over the last 45 years - it’s akin to asking South Yorkshire Police to lead an enquiry into the Hillsborough disaster.
“By putting the Department of Health in charge, it undermines the government’s excellent decision to call and inquiry.”
She said campaigners had already boycotted a planned consultation meeting in protest, despite the fact victims and their families are being urged to tell the government what they want to see from the probe, announced by Theresa May earlier this week.
The disaster, dubbed one of the worst peacetime incidents in the UK, claimed the lives of thousands of haemophiliacs in the 1970s and 80s and left countless others with HIV and hepatitis after they were given infected blood by the NHS.
Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price told the Commons the government was keen to hear the views of those impacted and urged families to take part in the consultation process.
“There has been no firm view taken as to which department will run the inquiry, but ultimately as the minister with responsibility for this area, the House would cons it amiss if I were not having meetings and discussions with those affected about its remit,” she said.
“We have made it quite clear we want to progress as soon as possible. We want to hear directly from the victims about what they want from this inquiry. We are very much in listening mode.”
Victims say they fear the probe will not delve deep enough and will leave the NHS open to the risk of similar incidents happening in the future.
Carol Grayson, whose husband died after becoming infected with HIV in the 1980s, told HuffPost UK: “I don’t feel lessons have been learned yet. It’s so important for the wider UK community to understand these issues and I really hope this helps to highlight what can happen when safety is not the first priority.”