EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Northampton man speaks of medical disaster which killed five of his family through infected NHS blood

Matthew Harris, who contracted hepatitis C from infected NHS blood
Matthew Harris, who contracted hepatitis C from infected NHS blood

A man from Northampton who caught hepatitis from infected NHS blood and has lost five cousins to the medical disaster, is calling for more medical help for survivors.

Matthew Harris, from Brixworth, is a haemophiliac who has needed regular blood transfusions all his life.

At some point in the 1970s or 1980s, he and six cousins, who were also born with the condition, all received infected blood from the NHS.

All of them caught chronic life-threatening illnesses, with five cousins dying in their teens or twenties. One cousin is now gravely ill with a long-term blood-borne disease and Mr Harris himself has battled the hepatitis he contracted through a transfusion for more than 30 years, massively altering his prospects in life.

He said: “I can’t believe this was allowed to happen and kept hidden.

“But most of all I can’t believe there has been no adequate compensation for those who have died and whose lives are still affected every day.

“This scandal has torn my family apart and to this day there is no proper acknowledgement of that.”

A report on the NHS blood scandal as it related to Scotland was published last week, to the anger of victims and their families who said it did not place blame on specific people or bodies.

Some money has been offered and Prime Minister David Cameron apologised on behalf of the Government.

Mr Harris, now aged 43, said he wants access to the most up-to-date medicines.

He said: “Nobody knows who will be in Government in May but I want them to finally say we will get what we deserve.

“I can’t get the newest drugs because only the most ill with cirrhosis are entitled. I’d like the Government to pledge to invest to make that happen.”

Mr Harris said he also wanted enough money to look after his family if the worst happens.

“Because of my condition, I can’t get life insurance so, as things stand, my wife gets nothing when I die.

“The least the Government can offer after what has happened to my relatives is some financial security.”

David Cameron last week apologised to victims of the NHS blood tragedy, following a Scottish report into the issue, saying it was something that “should not have happened”.

Between 1970 and 1991, contaminated NHS blood products caused an estimated 32,700 people to be infected with hepatitis C.

Between 1978 and 1985, 1,500 people were infected with the HIV virus in a similar way, most of whom were also infected with hepatitis C.

The infections came from Factor VIII, a clotting agent developed in the 1970s to be used in blood products for haemophiliacs.

Britain imported unscreened blood products as it did not have enough ‘home-grown’ Factor VIII. However the US companies the NHS sourced used blood from, used donors including drug addicts and homeless people infected with hepatitis C and HIV, who had been paid cash.