Call for swifter action to identify contaminated blood victims

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Media captionA recommendation from a blood contamination scandal that others who may have been infected should be traced has not been implemented, say lawyers representing some victims

The only recommendation of the inquiry into contaminated blood products has still not been implemented, according to lawyers representing some victims.

The Penrose Inquiry urged a "look back" exercise to trace people unaware they had been infected with hepatitis C.

Thompsons Solicitors said a review group set up to examine how this should be done only met for the first time in October.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the review group's work was "ongoing".

Between 1970 and 1991, an estimated 30,000 people across the UK were infected with Hepatitis C and/or HIV through blood products supplied by the NHS.

Scotland was the only part of the UK to hold an inquiry.

The report by Lord Penrose, published nearly a year ago, estimated that 2,500 people were infected through blood transfusions in Scotland, and concluded that more should be done to trace them.

It is known that there were at least 1,658 donations of infected blood but only 880 recipients were ever identified, and Lord Penrose concluded that these figures themselves may be an underestimate.

Thompsons said the working group had still not produced any recommendations on how to trace unidentified victims.

Case study - living with hepatitis C

"Paul", who is in his 40s, was diagnosed last month. He had a blood transfusion in May 1991 and now has cirrhosis of the liver.

"I was unwell, cold, muscles aching and twingeing. Shivery, headaches. I knew there was something wrong," he said.

"I changed doctors, and within a few weeks he had all the answers. I still can't get my head around it. I've not seen the specialist yet. The senior nurse told me I had stage 2 - cirrhosis of the liver. That's just another thing to try to deal with."

The diagnosis ended Paul's relationship, and he has not been able to work due to his severe symptoms.

"I don't take drugs, I don't drink, I don't abuse myself, I was fit and healthy guy until 15 months ago and it's been hell ever since. I've just got to rely on the government to help me live and I've never done that in my life."

Now Paul has to wait to see if he will be recommended for a new more effective treatment for hepatitis C, which is expensive, and has to be specially agreed by a panel of experts.

Senior solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, Lindsay Bruce said: "The only recommendation of the Penrose report was to identify any individuals who may have been infected with contaminated blood.

"From the clients I've spoken to, they don't feel enough has been done. Had they been diagnosed earlier they would not be in the situation they are now.

"We've got several cases. The longer this disease is in someone's body the more damage it does. It's a ticking time bomb."

Image caption Lindsay Bruce said the disease was a "ticking time bomb"

Cabinet Secretary for Health Shona Robison said work was under way to consider how best to identify other victims.

She said: "It is happening. That work is ongoing to look at how we can find any people out there.

"There have been attempts in the past to try to trace people and get them to come forward but Professor Goldberg [of Health Protection Scotland] is looking at what more we can do."

Last week the Scottish government announced increased financial support for victims.

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