Scottish blood victims were studied without knowledge

Scottish blood victims were studied without knowledge

Scottish blood victims were studied without knowledge

Scottish blood victims were studied without knowledge

Scottish patients who were infected with life-threatening diseases after being given contaminated blood were studied without their knowledge, a landmark inquiry has found.

More than 30,000 people in the UK, including about 3,000 in Scotland, contracted HIV and Hepatitis C via contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 80s.

The Infected Blood Inquiry looked at services across the UK and found that many Scottish patients being treated for haemophilia were used for Aids research without their consent.

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) apologised to victims ahead of the publication of the report.

The inquiry found that as Scottish doctors became aware of the risks of using a blood clotting treatment called Factor VIII, they did not inform their patients and instead carried out research.


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Many became infected after receiving blood transfusions on the NHS, others through treatment for haemophilia.

Unlike in the rest of the UK, the vast majority of infections in Scotland came from blood donations from within the country.

Medics here did not have to rely on commercial products from the United States.

In the 1970s and 80s, the country was largely self-sufficient in blood products, while the Protein Fractionation Centre in Edinburgh had the capacity to process blood plasma to manufacture treatments for haemophilia or certain forms of immune deficiencies.

In his final report, inquiry chair person Sir Brian Langstaff’s reported patients in Edinburgh and Glasgow were not initially informed about the risks of Factor VIII, with doctors instead opting to study the patients.

The report said the so-called “Edinburgh Cohort” was among the most studied group of patients in the world, because they were infected by a single batch of Factor VIII, under the care of Professor Christopher Ludlam.

The report concluded that his patients should have been told they were being studied, and about the results of the research, but they were “kept in the dark”


Sir Brian rejected claims in Prof Ludlam’s evidence that the testing was for routine monitoring.

He said: “It was undoubtedly research, despite his suggesting otherwise.

“Patients were never informed of the results of the investigations and the studies led to no review of the treatment regime. It did however, lead to publications in Dr Ludlam’s name and of his colleagues.”

He added: “Had they been informed … they would also have been told why, and would have become aware of the dangers of the treatment they were receiving.

“Some or all of them may then have refused to continue to be treated with concentrates. They may not then have been infected with HIV.”

Sir Brian concluded that Scotland’s work in the domestic manufacture of blood products, reducing reliance on commercial products imported from overseas, could have helped the whole of the UK reach self-sufficiency.

He said “a considerable number of cases of Aids would have been avoided, and, it follows, a significant number of deaths”.

But the inquiry chair person said it also led to some complacency among Scottish officials.

In May 1983, as news of the spread of Aids emerged in Europe, the Scottish Office’s principal medical officer Dr Archibald McIntyre told a senior civil servant that the situation did not “warrant action until the risks have been more fully evaluated” due Scotland’s near self-sufficiency in blood products.

No action or decisions were taken.

Sir Brian concluded that from early 1983 decision-makers in Scotland knew there was a real risk but, due to a lack of knowledge, their response was insufficient and too slow.

Scottish Public Health Minister Jenni Minto said: “On behalf of the Scottish government, I reiterate our sincere apology to those who have been infected or affected by NHS blood or blood products.

“The Scottish government has already accepted the moral case for compensation for infected blood victims and is committed to working with the UK government to ensure any compensation scheme works as well as possible for victims.”

She added that the government had set up an oversight group, including senior staff from NHS boards and charities representing those affected, to “consider the inquiry’s recommendations for Scotland”.

‘Hiding of the truth’

Looking at the extent of the scandal across the UK, Sir Brian concluded there had been a cover up by authorities.

He said it was “not an orchestrated conspiracy to mislead” but there has been “a hiding of much of the truth”.

The inquiry reported “instinctive defensiveness, to save face and to save expense” that had ben a “collective failing of successive governments”.

The SNBTS had been criticised for not adequately screening donors and for taking donations from prisoners, which were known to be at at greater risk of infection due to higher intravenous drug use.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to issue an apology following the publication of the report, with ministers thought to be preparing to set out the compensation package – expected to be more than £10bn – on Tuesday.

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