‘I’m dying due to NHS blood scandal’
PUBLISHED: 09:57 17 June 2015 | UPDATED: 13:47 26 June 2015
A decade ago Brenda Buzer was given the devastating news that she had hepatitis C, a virus that lays waste to the liver, and that it almost certainly came from an NHS blood transfusion.
It was a bolt out of the blue for the grandmother-of-five who is now slowly dying of advanced and irreversible liver cirrhosis.
The 81-year-old, of Kingsley Close, Dagenham, is one of thousands of people who were infected through contaminated blood products supplied by the NHS up until 1991.
So far 2,000 people are believed to have died from the effects of hep C or HIV contracted through tainted blood, some of it bought in by the British government from America. Although more than 7,000 people UK-wide are thought to have been given contaminated blood products, only 6,000 are believed to know it.
The rest, like Brenda who was most likely infected through blood transfusions following a miscarriage decades ago, may have carried the hep C virus for decades.
Like many others, Brenda has never had compensation and no prosecutions have ever been brought against anyone involved.
“I got something through no fault of my own,” said Brenda. “I do feel a bit bitter about it because I think to myself, there’s all my family I’ll have to leave.”
“Along with other people she’s had a raw deal and she should get something to make whatever time she’s got left easier,” her husband, Stan, added.
Many of the blood products used by the NHS were commercially manufactured and sold, without safety checks, to the British government.
The government’s pledges
Earlier this year David Cameron became the first prime minister to issue an apology to victims of the contaminated blood scandal.
He said: “To each and every one of those people I would like to say sorry on behalf of the government for something that should not have happened.”
He also pledged an extra £25m for the next 12months to be spent on setting up a better payment and support system for those affected - however campaigners are still waiting for that pledge to be realised.
While the government has no plans to launch a formal inquiry in this country, on conclusion of the Penrose Inquiry this year - held on behalf of Scottish victims, it pledged to study the inquiry’s findings closely and act accordingly.
Meanwhile, in a January an All-Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry made a series of recommendations designed to make the financial support system fairer.
These products came from high-risk sources, including prisons, drug addicts and the homeless, but the government continued to import them even after being warned they carried a risk of infection.
The government has set up funds which make arbitrary payments to some victims but has never provided a comprehensive settlement to all affected.
One hurdle faced by many victims is the lack of medical records. Brenda had her blood transfusions at Oldchurch Hospital in Romford, which has long since closed.
“That’s what all the trouble is really because the hospital doesn’t exist now, they’ve got rid of all their records,” she explained.
The couple, who have not been on holiday for 10 years, were initially told they had a strong case for a payment of up to £25,000 but were later told they did not qualify due to their lack of records.
“I said, ‘You’ve got your proof, Brenda is the proof,” said Stan. “She’s got cirrhosis and irreversible liver damage.”
Stan, a retired HGV lorry driver and jazz musician, says the NHS has still never offered to test him for hep C.
And a bleak shadow that haunts the couple is whether the virus may have been passed to their son Scott, who died from meningitis aged just 25.
It was only in March this year that David Cameron became the first prime minister to apologise for what happened. But words are cheap say Stan and Brenda Buzer, and too little too late for the many thousands impacted by the scandal.
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