Scottish ministers were told of contaminated blood claim in 2003

Scottish Parliament in Holyrood. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Scottish Parliament in Holyrood. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
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Scottish Cabinet ministers were told the UK Department of Health was investigating a claim of knowingly supplying contaminated blood, newly released files from 2003 show.

Official documents show Scotland’s then health minister Malcolm Chisholm telling the Cabinet of the Scottish Executive at a meeting in October 2003 there were two current issues relating to the contaminated blood scandal – recommendations for compensations levels and the claim the contaminated blood and knowingly been supplied.

Thousands of people across the UK in the 1970s and 1980s were given blood products infected with hepatitis viruses and HIV. The first UK-wide inquiry into the public health disaster heard in 2018 it is estimated more than 25,000 could have been affected.

The UK government imported blood clotting factor from the US, where much of the plasma used came from donors such as prison inmates and was not properly screened, which was then given to haemophiliacs and other patients in the UK.

The papers also record Mr Chisholm telling the Cabinet he had only had money for the cheapest of the options drawn up to compensate those given contaminated blood in Scotland.

That paper states: “Mr Chisholm said that there were two current issues in relation to Hepatitis-C infection through contaminated blood products.

“The first was the calls from Lord Ross, as chairman of the Expert Group, in relation to the level of compensation for those affected and the range of people who should receive it. The second was a claim that the government had knowingly supplied contaminated blood after procedures had been introduced in 1991 to test for the virus used in blood transfusions.

“This would be a very serious matter, if true, and the Health Department was investigating the basis of the claim.”

Earlier that year, in a briefing paper to the Scottish Cabinet, Mr Chisholm said he could only release up to £10m towards a compensation scheme for those in Scotland who had received contaminated blood.

An expert group headed by Lord Ross recommended to a parliamentary committee that all those infected were given compensation payments, including those who have cleared the virus, and payments made to dependants who those who had become infected and died.

However, Mr Chisholm said the scheme should be targeted at those still alive with long-term symptoms of signs of liver inflammation. In three options for compensating this group, ranging from the £50,000-£25,000 for all with long-term symptoms or damage and an another £50,000-£25,000 for those who develop cirrhosis.