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Come and visit me on my deathbed Mrs May, says Norfolk contaminated blood victim

PUBLISHED: 07:45 12 July 2017 | UPDATED: 08:10 12 July 2017

Bob Brennan has Hepatitis C from a contaminated blood transfusion. Pictured with his wife Kim.  Photo: Sonya Duncan

Bob Brennan has Hepatitis C from a contaminated blood transfusion. Pictured with his wife Kim. Photo: Sonya Duncan

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A victim of the contaminated blood scandal has urged the Prime Minister to visit him on his deathbed after Theresa May announced an inquiry into how thousands of people were given deadly illnesses by the NHS.

Bob Brennan has weeks left to live after contracting Hepatitis C through a contaminated blood product given to him in a transfusion in 1988.

The 64-year-old, of Mill Road in Thompson near Watton, is now being cared for at the Priscilla Bacon Lodge in Norwich.

After hearing news yesterday a long-awaited inquiry would be launched into the scandal, the grandfather-of-four said he wanted Mrs May to visit him and other victims to understand what they were going through.

“If she was to see me with her own eyes maybe they would do a lot more,” he said.

Prime Minister Theresa May  has announced there will be an inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal. Picture: PA WIREPrime Minister Theresa May has announced there will be an inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal. Picture: PA WIRE

He was told he had Hepatitis C five years ago, which has since developed into severe liver failure and cancer.

His daughter Danielle Brennan said: “The contaminated blood scandal has robbed us of our dad through no fault of his own. My dad is very poorly. We are very angry about this.”

Shortly before the House of Commons was due to hold an emergency debate on Tuesday afternoon on whether there should be an inquiry into contaminated blood, Theresa May and health secretary Jeremy Hunt told cabinet colleagues a probe was needed.

Mrs May said: “The contaminated blood scandal of the 1970s and 80s is an appalling tragedy which should simply never have happened.

Alan Kirkham from Norwich was given a contaminated blood product. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAlan Kirkham from Norwich was given a contaminated blood product. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“At least 2,400 people died and thousands more were exposed to Hepatitis C and HIV, with life-changing consequences.

“The victims and their families who have suffered so much pain and hardship deserve answers as to how this could possibly have happened.”

Up until now, the Government had resisted calls for a fresh inquiry into how thousands of people were given contaminated blood products.

In what has been described as one of the NHS’s worst scandals, blood products made from high-risk donors such as drug addicts, prisoners and prostitutes were given to patients around the world.

Michelle Tolley had blood transfusions twice when she was pregnant in and years later was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYMichelle Tolley had blood transfusions twice when she was pregnant in and years later was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

In the UK it mainly affected patients with haemophilia who were given a contaminated blood product called Factor VIII by the NHS in the 1970s and 1980s.

But patients given blood transfusions for operations were also infected.

Details of the UK-wide investigation have yet to be finalised and consultations will now take place with those people affected.

The announcement follows a joint call by six opposition political party leaders for a Hillsborough-style inquiry.

Annie Walker from Norwich died in March 2016 after being given contaminated blood in a transfusion in the 1970s.  Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Annie Walker from Norwich died in March 2016 after being given contaminated blood in a transfusion in the 1970s. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

And like Hillsborough, criminal charges could be brought against those implicated, according to a health minister.

Philip Dunne told MPs he expected the new inquiry to have the “ability to do the same thing” as the Hillsborough disaster probe, with information to be passed on to the police if appropriate.

He also said Jeremy Hunt would meet the families of victims before deciding on the style of a public inquiry.

Alan Kirkham, from Meadow Way in Hellesdon, who was infected through a blood transfusion in 1983, said the inquiry should be done quickly as many victims were dying.

One of those it is too late for is Annie Walker from Norwich who died aged 62 in March last year at Priscilla Bacon Lodge.

Mr Kirkham, who is managing to stay healthy despite contracting stage two Hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver, said: “This is an issue which has been fudged for nearly 40 years. Let us wait and see what happens.

“I’m glad the Government has acknowledged there is something to look into.

“It needs to be a fairly quick inquiry because there are lots of people dying now that want to know the answer.”

The 69-year-old added: “Depending on its terms of reference and what sort of inquiry it is going to be - it could be a good thing.”

Campaigners have been calling for years for a full public inquiry into the scandal and their stories have been told over the last two years in this newspaper.

•‘Mixed emotions’

Michelle Tolley, from Sparham, has been campaigning for answers since she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C 18 months ago.

The 52-year-old contracted the illness when she was given contaminated blood in transfusions during pregnancies in 1987 and 1991.

The news on Tuesday that there would be an inquiry took her by surprise and she said she had “mixed emotions”.

“I have tried to raise so much awareness over the last few months. It is fantastic, I don’t know how Theresa May kept ducking an inquiry before.

“I hope it includes all people who have suffered in one way or another.”

The mother-of-four endured 28 years of misdiagnoses after being given the infected blood.

She said she hoped the inquiry would find out how people were given the contaminated products despite evidence that it was infecting patients.

“I want them to accept liability,” she said. “I want to know why and how it happened.”

•MPs’ reaction

North Norfolk Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb warned that the inquiry must take place urgently to help survivors in desperate need.

In a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr Lamb welcomed the news but said: “There is also an urgency because those people who continue to suffer need help now.”

Norwich North Conservative MP Chloe Smith, who took up the cases of her constituents affected by the scandal, had previously said no fresh inquiry was needed and resources would be better spent compensating victims.

But before the election former health secretary and Labour MP Andy Burnham said there was evidence of a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale”.

In light of new evidence, Ms Smith said: “I hope that this inquiry will provide further comfort to affected constituents.

“Having assisted a constituent (Annie Walker) who has sadly passed way after receiving contaminated blood and who always told me she wanted action before more people died, I want to see closure as quickly as possible.”

•What is the scandal?

During the 1970s and 1980s thousands of haemophiliacs in Britain were treated with a product called Factor VIII, extracted from blood plasma donated by high-risk sources like prisoners and drug users in the USA.

It is estimated that approximately 4,670 haemophiliacs were infected with Hepatitis C whilst 1,243 also contracted HIV.

It had long been known that there was a risk of infection to haemophiliacs from blood products. But doctors told BBC’s Panorama programme in May that these events should not be judged with the benefit of hindsight.

When AIDS first emerged, it was unclear what caused it and the HIV virus was only identified in April 1984.

An inquiry called the Archer inquiry was held in 2009, and a separate one was held in Scotland in 2015.

But campaigners say there is new evidence which was not brought to light in previous inquiries.

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