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Blood scandal report 'a whitewash'

Victims of a contaminated blood scandal have reacted angrily to the findings of a long-awaited inquiry, describing the report as a "whitewash".

Lord Penrose was tasked by Scottish ministers to examine how thousands of NHS patients came to be infected with hepatitis C and HIV infection in the 1970s and 80s.

After a six-year inquiry costing millions of pounds, the retired judge concluded that more should have been done to screen blood and donors for hepatitis C in the early 1990s and that the collection of blood from prisoners should have stopped earlier.

He recommended that every patient who had a blood transfusion before September 1991 be offered a test for the virus, if they have not already been tested.

On HIV infections, the inquiry found that, once the risk had emerged, ''all that could reasonably be done was done''.

The publication of the five-volume document prompted apologies from the Prime Minister and the Scottish Government but victims and their relatives said it lacked answers.

In a display of their anger, some campaigners burned a copy of the report outside the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh where a conference was held.

Glenn Wilkinson, from the Contaminated Blood Campaign, said: "I feel totally devastated. We didn't expect the world, we didn't expect this to be the final solution for this campaign but we certainly expected a lot more than that.

"It has created a new level of disappointment. I don't think we've had a single answer from what was said in there."

David Fielding, from Bolton, said: "I'm absolutely devastated. So much was depending on this, for my life and my future. I was so hoping that there would be an announcement about compensation for the victims.

"A wrong has been done here. I don't know what I can say about this other than what people were shouting in the hall - whitewash. It's a total whitewash."

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron said: "It is difficult to imagine the feelings of unfairness that people must feel at being infected with hepatitis C and HIV as a result of a totally unrelated treatment within the NHS."

He apologised to "each and every one" of the affected and confirmed £25 million of funding to improve financial support for the victims.

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison accepted the recommendation to provide the blood tests and confirmed that the Scottish Government will review and improve financial support schemes for those affected.

Lord Penrose, who did not attend the publication due to serious illness, said the impact on those who had been infected had been "devastating" and also commented on the "forgotten suffering" of clinical staff who administered the contaminated blood products.

He said: "This is the stuff of nightmares, and they too have suffered, especially when accused of knowing or deliberate attempts to harm patients, of which the inquiry found no evidence."

John Cassar, who attended the conference, said: "There was more sympathy for the doctors rather than for the patients.

"What about the people that were dying, there was no mention of them and it's shocking."

The inquiry found that 478 people acquired the hepatitis C virus from blood product therapy in Scotland and 2,500 acquired the virus from blood transfusion in Scotland between 1970 and 1991.

Sixty patients acquired HIV from therapy with blood products and 18 from blood transfusion in Scotland.

Ms Robison said the Scottish Government's review of financial support will be concluded before World Haemophilia Day in April 2016.

She said: "While this was a UK - indeed international issue - I hope that today's report means that those affected in Scotland now have at least some of the answers they have long called for.

"I will meet families and those affected today to personally express that apology and to talk about our response to the inquiry report."

Haemophilia Scotland said: "The report contains powerful testimony of the horrendous damage to health, relationships and finances suffered by 478 Scottish families affected by bleeding disorders.

"For 193 of them, their loved one has not survived to see the Penrose report published.

"The Scottish public will be shocked and appalled at the level of suffering that has been caused by the greatest scandal ever to engulf the NHS."

It added: "Haemophilia Scotland, those infected, and their families are determined that all the decades of pain, loss and suffering should lead to real improvements in patient safety."

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