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Blood: Contamination

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health on what date, and in what location, the documents relating to the infection of haemophiliacs through contaminated blood products released by his Department on 20 May 2009 were discovered; and if he will make a statement. (285741)

[holding answer 13 July 2009]: The 468 documents released on 20 May 2009 were found in around 40 folders which contained documents from the late 1980s and 1990. These folders were stored at Wellington house, a Department of Health building. While preparing an inventory of these folders in July 2008, departmental officials became aware that they also contained documents relevant to the period before 1985 and a full assessment of the content of all the folders was therefore undertaken.

Many of the documents from the relevant period were found to be copies of those already released. There were 469 previously unreleased documents identified, none of which was judged to add materially to the knowledge of events in the years before 1985. One document from this batch was withheld as it contained personal information about a patient. The remaining 468 were released as soon as was practicable.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the documents relating to the infection of haemophiliacs through contaminated blood products have been requested for release and not released by his Department; on what grounds the documents have not been released; and if he will make a statement. (285851)

[holding answer 13 July 2009]: Since 1 January 2005, 30 requests have been received under the Freedom of Information Act to release documents relating to the infection of haemophilia patients through contaminated blood products. Eight of these requests were rejected under section 12 of the Act as the cost involved would exceed the statutory cost limit, which is £600 for central Government.

Of the remaining 22 requests, there were 25 instances where documents were withheld from 12 of these requests. The breakdown is as follows:

One instance withheld as exempt from disclosure under section 28;

Two instances withheld as exempt from disclosure under section 34;

Seven instances withheld as exempt from disclosure under section 35;

Two instances withheld as exempt from disclosure under section 36;

Three instances withheld as exempt from disclosure under section 40; and

10 instances withheld as exempt from disclosure under section 43.

Data are not held on the number of individual documents or parts of documents that each withheld instance relates to.

In addition, more than 5,500 documents (including those released on 20 May 2009) covering the relevant time period have been voluntarily released by the Department in line with the Freedom of Information Act. Of these documents, seven, two of which are duplicates, have been withheld under a Freedom of Information exemption because they contain personal information.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health which groups of people other than individuals with bleeding disorders his Department has identified who were exposed to potentially contaminated blood and blood products as a result of medical treatment between the 1970s and 1990s; and if he will make a statement. (286475)

The groups, in addition to patients with bleeding disorders, who may have been exposed to potentially contaminated blood and blood products received treatment for a range of conditions. These patients include those with primary immunodeficiency who received immunoglobulins, as well as some who required treatment with several infusions of intravenous immunoglobulin G or of plasma, for conditions such as immune thrombocytopaenic purpura or rapid anticoagulation reversal respectively.

Some patients who received transfusions of blood components (red cells, platelets, fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate) before effective tests to screen donated blood for HIV and hepatitis C became available (1985 and 1991 respectively), may also have been exposed.

Recipients of transfusions of blood components may have been exposed to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) during the 1980s and 1990s. To date, four cases of vCJD infection associated with transfusion have been identified, three of which resulted in clinical symptoms in the transfusion recipient. All recipients of blood from the donors to these cases were traced and those living notified of their risk status. Some recipients of plasma products manufactured from United Kingdom sourced pooled plasma between 1980 and 2001 were identified as being potentially ‘at risk’ for vCJD as a result of their treatment in line with risk assessment advice from the CJD Incidents Panel in 2004.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) whether the Department's look-back exercise to identify patients who may have been infected with HIV or hepatitis C through blood and blood products will include patients who were at risk of infection but who do not have bleeding disorders; and if he will make a statement; (286477)

(2) when the Department plans to (a) start and (b) finish its look back exercise to identify patients who may have been infected with HIV or hepatitis C as a result of infected blood and blood products, but who are unaware of the fact; and if he will make a statement.

The precise terms and duration of the look-back exercise are due to be finalised imminently with the United Kingdom Haemophilia Centres Doctors’ Organisation (UKHCDO). It is likely that the look-back exercise will concentrate on patients with bleeding disorders who may have been infected, as indicated in the Government response to Lord Archer’s independent report into national health service supplied contaminated blood and blood products, but the UKHCDO will also take the opportunity to consider the need to include any other patient groups who may have been infected.

There was a look-back exercise in 1995 to identify and offer hepatitis C testing to recipients of blood transfusions from known hepatitis C infected blood donors. The Department’s ongoing hepatitis C awareness campaign, which has been running since 2005, highlights the risks of hepatitis C infection, including specifically from blood transfusions or blood products in the UK before it was possible to introduce safety measures, and encourages patients who may be at risk to discuss the need for testing with their doctor.

Patients infected with HIV through contaminated blood transfusions or blood products in the UK are likely to have already been identified because of the clinical nature of the disease, as it is now over 20 years since HIV testing was introduced by the blood services.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many partners of haemophiliacs infected with (a) HIV and (b) hepatitis C through contaminated blood products have been infected with (i) HIV and (ii) hepatitis C as a result; and if he will make a statement. (285881)

The Department does not hold details of the number of infected partners of haemophiliacs infected with HIV and hepatitis C.

The Macfarlane Trust holds details of the number of partners of HIV infected haemophilia patient registrants, who have become a beneficiary in their own right under the ex-gratia scheme.

The Skipton Fund, which administers the ex-gratia scheme to haemophilia patients and others infected with hepatitis C, does not keep a separate record of the number of people who were infected by their partners.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many haemophiliacs had tested positive for hepatitis C antibodies in their blood by August 1990 as a result of the application of the Elisa test; and if he will make a statement; (286098)

(2) on what date the (a) first and (b) last haemophiliac was informed of the results of the test for the prevalence of hepatitis C antibodies in their blood from the Elisa test; and if he will make a statement.

This information is not held centrally by the Department. This is a matter for the patient and their clinician, and such information would not necessarily be held by the Skipton Fund.