Government accused of ‘Hillsborough cover-up’ after court hears doctors were asked to ‘tone down’ reports of contaminated blood scandal which infected up to 30,000 patients with HIV and hepatitis

Experts looking into the impact of the blood scandal, which saw up to 30,000 NHS patients infected with HIV and hepatitis through contaminated blood transfusions in the 1970s and 80s, were asked to ‘tone down’ their reports, a court has heard.

By Wes Holmes
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 12:30 pm

Giving evidence at the ongoing infected blood inquiry yesterday (May 10), Dr Andrzej Rejman, a senior medical officer at the Department of Health from 1989 to 1997, said: “I suspect we did say to health authorities – look, we've read this expert witness report. We suggest that you ask Professor Bloom would he be prepared to tone this bit down, tone this bit down, you know, change the emphasis or whatever. Which is what we did with our expert witnesses if we thought they were going off tangent.”

Around 5,000 people are believed to have been infected with HIV and Hepatitis C due to contaminated NHS blood transfusions in the 1970s and 80s, but some estimates put the number at up to 30,000. Nearly 3,000 people have died.

Among the victims was 59-year-old Paul Birch, of Rock Street, Thornton, who was infected with Hep C in the 70s after receiving a blood transfusion at Blackpool Victoria Hospital following a motorbike accident. He died of cancer caused by the virus in January 2017, leaving behind a wife and daughter.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Photo By Garo / Phanie / Rex Features

Dawn Zerbinati, of Ribchester Avenue, Blackpool, was also unknowingly infected with hepatitis C after receiving a contaminated blood transfusion following the birth of her daughter in 1984. She was one of 300 victims called to give evidence at the start of the inquiry last year.

Under questioning by inquiry counsel Ms Jenni Richards QC, Dr Rejman, who was involved in the government's handling of HIV legal action from 1989, admitted that the government did not properly investigate the contaminated blood scandal.

When asked what the Department of Health had done to find out if patients were informed of the risks, he said: "I do not believe at my stage that anybody asked that specific question.”

VICTIM: Paul Birch, with wife Christine

He said: "We, the government, did everything we could as well as we could based upon the best expert opinion available at the time”, but added: “I don't think anybody ever did a formal review.”

Jason Evans, founder of Factor 8, a charity supporting the victims of the contaminated blood scandal, said: "What we've heard today is shocking. Hearing that experts were asked to change their reports makes me wonder if this is another example of the Hillsborough cover-up, whereby police officers were asked to change their statements.

“It is nothing other than truly sad that so many victims died being told that the government had done nothing wrong when today, a senior official admits that they didn't even bother to find out if that was true. Slowly but surely, the truth is coming out at long last."

VICTIM: Dawn Zerbinati
Dr Andrzej Rejman