LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will hold a public inquiry into contaminated blood supplied to patients in the state-run National Health Service which killed at least 2,400 people, the government said on Tuesday.
During the 1970s and 1980s, blood products supplied to the NHS was contaminated with viruses such as HIV or hepatitis C and infected thousands of people with hemophilia or other bleeding disorders.
Health minister Philip Dunne said many documents were publicly available which gave a comprehensive picture of events and decisions made at the time.
“However, I recognise for those affected these steps do not go far enough to provide the answers that they want to get to the truth of what happened,” he told parliament.
“In light of these concerns and a report of new evidence and allegations of potential criminality, we think it is important to understand the extent of what is claimed and the wider issues that arise.”
Families of victims will be consulted to decide what form the inquiry would take.
A report by lawmakers in 2015 said the Department of Health estimated that more than 30,000 people might have been infected with hepatitis C between 1970 and 1991 when Britain imported some blood products from the United States but just 6,000 had been identified.
A further 1,500 were infected with HIV between 1978 and 1985.
The inquiry comes after leaders from all of Britain’s main political parties, except the ruling Conservatives, wrote a joint letter to May demanding an investigation into the issue.
“For decades people with bleeding disorders and their families have sought the truth,” said Liz Carroll, Chief Executive of The Haemophilia Society.
“Instead, they were told by the government that no mistakes were made while it repeatedly refused to acknowledge evidence of negligence and a subsequent cover up. Finally, they will have the chance to see justice.”
Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Pritha Sarkar