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HomeHealthUpdate on impact of infected blood scandal in Hertfordshire

Update on impact of infected blood scandal in Hertfordshire

A “small number” of patients in Hertfordshire who received infected blood products more than 30 years ago may not yet have been identified, according to  a report presented to county councillors.

Between 1970 and 1991, thousands of patients across the country were given infected blood and infected blood products by NHS services. With that there was the risk of infection from viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV.

Earlier this year (May), the final report of the national Infected Blood Inquiry was published. In the wake of that report, county councillors asked to be updated on the number of Hertfordshire residents that had been affected and the measures that were being implemented locally.

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At a meeting of the public health and community safety cabinet panel on Wednesday (June 26), councillors heard that information of the number of people that had been affected in Hertfordshire was “not available”.

But it did accept that there may still be a “small number of patients” who had received infected blood historically and may not have been identified – particularly if infected with hepatitis C.

“Given the time that has elapsed since the last use of infected blood products, most of those who were directly affected have been identified and started appropriate treatment,” says the report.

“However, there may be a small number of patients where this is not the case, and particularly where they are living with asymptomatic hepatitis C.

“Information on how many people have been affected in Hertfordshire is not available.”

At the meeting, it was reported that imported blood infected with HIV and hepatitis C had been given to patients in the form of transfusions, plasma and other blood products between 1970 and 1991.

Director of public health Sarah Perman told the meeting that based on the numbers of people affected nationally, it was inevitable that people in Hertfordshire will have been affected.

She said it was important to acknowledge the “appalling scale” of the failure – and the the “devastating impact” that it will have had on some Hertfordshire residents.

Meanwhile it was also reported to the panel that all blood donations have been tested for HIV since October 1985 and for Hepatitis C since September 1991. Since that screening was introduced, councillors heard that the risk of getting an infection from a blood transfusion or blood product was “very low”.

“Today, all blood donated in the UK is screened using very rigorous safety standards and testing to protect both donors and patients,” says the report.

“Since screening was introduced, the risk of getting an infection from a blood transfusion or blood products is very low.”

There have, according to the report, been NO reported and confirmed cases of hepatitis C, from any UK blood component, since a 1997 transfusion  – and for HIV from a transfusion in 2002.

At the meeting Ms Perman told councillors that the safety of blood transfusions had massively improved. She pointed to the NHS Blood and Transport Service as being “robust and safe” for those people who need to receive blood transfusions and other products.

Councillors were told that confidential support for anyone affected by treatment with infected blood or blood product is available from the British Red Cross.

They heard there’s an online resource for those who may be worried about their health following the publication of the public inquiry report, which can be found at nhs.uk/infected-blood-support

For those who have concerns about possible hepatitis or HIV infection, councillors were told that testing is available. Councillors were also told that any increases in testing and enquiries by the public would be “closely monitored”.

Labour Cllr Asif Khan – who had requested the debate – said the report was “reassuring”.

 

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