More than 25,000 people may have been infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses from infected blood, the man overseeing a public inquiry said yesterday.
The inquiry is set to last nearly two years and will travel to major cities around the UK, such as Edinburgh and Belfast, to take evidence.
It already has a record number of “core participants,” some 1,288 people and organisations, all of whom are entitled to make opening statements this week, setting out their priorities for the inquiry.
Its lead investigator, Jenni Richards QC, told the opening hearing yesterday that it would seek to establish whether individuals were treated or tested without their knowledge.
It will also be seeking to establish the extent of the problem and claims that large numbers of victims remain to be identified.
Its investigations may go back to the founding of the NHS in 1948 – although most infections are thought to have occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.
About 3,000 deaths have been attributed to contaminated blood. Many of the victims were people treated with blood products for haemophilia.
It has taken a year for the inquiry to begin its work after it was announced in July 2017.
The inquiry chair Sir Brian Langstaff said: “It is a truly sobering thought,” he said, “that if some claims are well-founded – and it will be for this inquiry to find out if they are – there may yet be many thousands more who do not feel well but have not yet been told that the reason for this is that their life is threatened by hepatitis C.
“It is a sobering thought that the consequences of what was done then may be continuing to cause death even now.”
Yesterday’s opening was marked by a commemoration event with a video sequence of pictures of the dead and their families.
Further reading: BBC News
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