Be heard, find the truth, act justly

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

Church House in Westminster is where the preliminary hearings of the Infected Blood Inquiry have taken place this week. Sir Brian Langstaff is the retired judge who agreed to head the inquiry.

He cannot have anticipated being applauded several times by the hundreds of victims and their families.

Since 1989 I have been active in collaboration with the Haemophilia Society and more recently with Diana Johnson MP.

We co-chair the All Party Group on Contaminated Blood and Haemophilia.

My interest came from three events: my mother and my wife had significant blood transfusions; a friend’s husband was one of the first haemophiliacs to die from HIV/AIDS after being given contaminated blood; also, my team and I have represented the interests of constituents who have hepatitis C from infected blood.

Additionally, we knew a successful newspaper editor who switched to working for Treloar’s College where many students with special needs had become victims.

One of the representatives of the core participants, the infected and the affected, quoted Virginia as the first health minister to recognise publicly the burden of blood infections added to the trials of haemophilia.

One QC said the victims, including the whole blood patients, wanted to be heard; they want the truth to be known and they want to be treated justly.

Before we all experienced the moving acts of remembrance that came on Monday morning, a member of my Westminster team and I had given blood at the Cavendish Square headquarters of the Royal College of Nursing (the regular centre is being refurbished).

Two donors fainted. They were cared for well. My only problem is having hidden veins: once the needle is in, the blood flows well.

In 1970, Richard Titmuss’s book The Gift Relationship was described by The New York Times as having the force and elegance of a novel and the immediacy of an emergency news bulletin.

Described as a comparative study of blood donating in the United States and Britain, it contrasted our system of voluntary donors based on altruism rather than treating blood as a market commodity.

The problem with the imported clotting Factor VIII is that it required mixing tens of thousands of units of blood, so any one contaminated unit could share its virus with every recipient.

We also may have been slow in this country before the condition first known as non-A, non-B hepatitis was identified as HIV and AIDS.

I had thought that this article might be about the joy and the pride of the young people celebrating their National Citizens Service awards in the Assembly Halls.

It was great to see the mix of heritage in the young that unites all in positive action.

Additionally I would have given more space to the cheerful Beach residents.

In their working lives, they have experiences that should be honoured.

I spoke after an excellent supper at the Last Resort about the range of activities occupying me as Member of Parliament.

On Saturday I enjoyed the crafts fair in the Ferring village hall

Before the rain fell, I was able to plant lovely cyclamen grown at the Ferring Country Centre.

Locals know the value and variety of their plants and trees – and the jolly good selection of heritage tomatoes and cucumbers.

Sadly because of the blood inquiry, I cannot be at the Guild Care annual general meeting this week.

Its projects and continuous improvement of local services are admirable.

For 85 years, Guild Care employees and volunteers have provided homes, home care and group activities, now for 3,500 people a week.

The greatest number: the 50,000-plus hours given by the dedicated volunteers.

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