UK

Those responsible in the infected blood scandal should face prison, the mayor of Greater Manchester has said.

Andy Burnham, who secured his third term as mayor in the local elections earlier this month, has also warned victims should not be left in the “wilderness” waiting for justice.

He said there had been a “criminal cover up on an industrial scale” in the scandal that saw nearly 30,000 people infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products imported from the US during the 1970s and 1980s.

The former health secretary told Sky News’ Kay Burley that those serving in the medical profession, the pharmaceutical industry and in Whitehall all bore responsibility for the scandal, which is currently the subject of an ongoing, independent public statutory inquiry.

Mr Burnham said he believed those responsible should face prison because “there has to be accountability”.

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“Often with these things in this country, they go on for so long and nobody is then held accountable,” he said, drawing parallels with the Hillsborough disaster in which 97 people died as a result of a crush at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989.

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“There needs to be a duty of candour on all public servants, and that is to tell the truth at the first time of asking,” the mayor said.

“Nobody should be left in the wilderness, like all of the victims of those various scandals that I’ve mentioned have been left in the wilderness.”

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Infected blood risks were missed

The inquiry is looking into how men, women and children treated by the NHS were given infected blood and infected blood products from 1970 onwards.

Next week the inquiry will publish its final report into the evidence it has heard since it opened in 2019.

Earlier this week Sky News reported how vulnerable pupils with haemophilia at Treloar’s School in Hampshire were used as guinea pigs and forced to inject themselves with blood taken in secret trials.

They were unwittingly infected with HIV and Hepatitis in secret trials to test blood products that could be developed to use for patients with blood clotting disorders. Many of them died, despite those in charge knowing the risks..

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‘They exploited our tiny veins’

Mr Burnham said the “official line” that was given to him when he was in government was that “nobody had knowingly been given infected blood products”.

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“But that simply isn’t true,” he added.

Mr Burnham, who raised the infected blood scandal in his last speech as an MP in 2017, did not rule out the possibility of a return to the House of Commons but said he had been “happier” representing the people of Greater Manchester.

“Honestly, I’m here for a full third term,” he said.

“Would I go back at some point you asked me? Well, possibly. But, you know, I’ve always been more excited by this than anything that happened in Westminster – and I mean that.”

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