Infected blood inquiry head criticises submission of document on day of evidence

PA

The chairman of the infected blood inquiry has criticised the submission of a document on the morning its co-author appeared to give evidence.

Professor Christopher Ludlam, a consultant haematologist and reference centre director at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary from 1980 to 2011, appeared remotely to give evidence to the inquiry on Tuesday.

Jenni Richards QC raised the issue of the document apparently co-authored by Prof Ludlam and Professor Gordon Lowe – honorary consultant at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, who is due to give evidence at a later date – entitled The Scottish Perspective on Health Care Organisation, Management of Pandemics and Management of Haemophilia Care.

She said: “I’ve not had the time to read it, the chair has not seen it and no core participant or recognised legal representative would have done so because it arrived with the inquiry only this morning.

“In circumstances where the rule nine request for a statement was sent to you on December 12 last year, are you able to assist us with why this document is being sent to the inquiry now?”

Prof Ludlam replied it had taken a while to put the document together and get support from colleagues, and he offered an apology for its lateness.

Ms Richards highlighted the inquiry “has been careful to ask for individual statements” rather than collective documents or submissions.

Asked who produced the document, Prof Ludlam said: “I think it arose out of a discussion, probably between Professor Lowe and the team at the Central Legal Office (CLO).”

Sir Brian Langstaff, chairman of the inquiry, told Prof Ludlam: “This is an inquiry asking its own questions of witnesses who will be able to say what the facts are.

“You will not called as an expert even though you have, obviously, expertise … but this is not the right place to make a submission … in due course there will be a chance for you to advise the CLO, no doubt, and to discuss with them.

“It looks as though (it is) an attempt to pre-empt some of the discussion. Well, it isn’t.

“And Ms Richards will ask you the questions that she had in mind.”

He added: “I don’t expect this document to have any further currency in this inquiry – you can revise it as much as you like before the end, I won’t read it until then, because I don’t see any proper evidential basis for doing so.

“If your counsel wishes to persuade me otherwise I’m prepared to listen and I will do so tomorrow afternoon once you finish your evidence.

“But for the moment, I’m not very happy that the document is put forward – I don’t necessarily blame you for it but you were party to it.”

Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

About 2,400 people died in what has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

Scotland was the first part of the UK to hold a public inquiry into the scandal, but this did not take place until 2009 and did not report until 2015.

It estimated about 3,000 people were infected in Scotland.

The inquiry continues.

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