The Truth About Britain’s Blood Supply Scandal

2nd August 2017 / United Kingdom
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The Truth About Britain's Blood Supply Scandal

By Graham Vanbergen: Here is another political scandal that will be swept under the multi-coloured carpet of deceit, chicanery and duplicity.

The Haemophilia Society has blown the whistle and called for an enquiry into its own failure and that of government, the pharmaceutical industry and clinicians.

From Political Cleanup: “Medics and politicians knew by the mid-1970s that commercially manufactured blood products from the USA were suspect. By the mid-1980s there were warnings of a similar situation in respect of HIV. Nevertheless these products continued to be imported and used. The lives of British haemophiliacs and other patients in need  of a blood transfusion were blighted in the 1970s and 1980s by these cheap imported US blood products, harvested from inmates and drug addicts. More than 7,000 were infected and went on unknowingly to infect family and friends.” Read more in The Journal.

Last week in The Times, Margarette Driscoll recalls that in 2015, following the Penrose report into contaminated blood products in Scotland (which many victims denounced as a whitewash), David Cameron apologised to those who were infected by HIV and hepatitis C.

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I feel quite sure that the 7,000 or so infected, the 2,400 who subsequently died and families affected by this scandalous affair, feel better after Cameron’s woeful apology!

Perhaps, Cameron and his cronies had forgotten that Plasma Resources UK (PRUK) was specifically brought into public ownership in 1975, by Dr David Owen, because of the risks associated with contaminated blood under for-profit conditions. Of course they had. The Privatisation ideology has a tendency to do that. It was David Cameron’s government who then sold on this national life saving asset two years prior to his shallow apology.

Last May I wrote a piece about how George Osborne was selling state assets at an alarming rate to shore up his failed economic policies. So much was being sold that by 2020 the sell-off will have exceeded all privatisation projects combined since the arrival of Thatcher’s neoliberal economic model, since proven to be a failure and still unravelling to this day. I was just one of many warning about the dangers and failings of privatising critical services.

The problem with blood supplied to Britain in the 1970’s onwards was that it was always contaminated … with privatisation.  A system of profit first, ask questions later. And those questions are now being answered. This was recognised then and was the sole reason for nationalising it.

The story of selling the national blood supplier to an American outfit who has no national interest, either to the country or the people in it doesn’t end there. Being a purely profit driven business as private equity firms are, guess what happened next, yes, you got it, it was sold on again for even greater profit.

Bain Capital bought an 80% share in the national blood supplier for £230 million in 2013 and just 3 years later, has sold it to Chinese company called Creat for a total cash consideration of £820m.

That this national asset was sold for £230 million and resold just three years later for £820 million is a scandal in its own right. Just like the disposal of the Post Office was.

Creat paid cash. They have that much money because Chinese plasma product supply companies are highly profitable businesses and China is suffering a shortage of these products. What does that tell you? And when they divert supplies to more profitable markets will Britain be left short? British blood must be worth something.

The National Health Action Party (NHAP) issued warnings in 2013 about the potentially dangerous consequences of selling the state owned blood supplier, Plasma Resources UK to US private equity firm Bain Capital. They did again last year when it sold it off for a second time.

 

Dr Clive Peedell, former leader of the NHAP said ” Every sale of this kind increases the dangers the public are exposed to by privatisation. Health care is very big business globally. But the NHS should not simply be a market competitor, looking for ways to maximise profit. It should be first and foremost a system which ensures that we all look after each other at our time of greatest need. The loss of blood plasma supplies will have dreadful consequences for patients, as will the potential increased risk of contamination. And I am warning that these are the real risks when lucrative global markets are the prime objective, not our own patient care in the NHS.”

Dr David Owen was right in the 1970’s, Dr Clive Peedell is right again but that won’t stop extreme neoliberal capitalism making a quick hundred million or so. One should not forget that the NHS blood transfusion system requires 6,000 donations every single day to meet the needs of patients across England. All of that blood is given free by its citizens. Why were these same citizens given contaminated foreign blood in the first place? And will it happen again as our own supplies are shipped to China for profit.

In the meantime, Theresa May has announced an inquiry will be held into the contaminated blood scandal. What type of inquiry is not known. But the taxpayer will be footing the bill and paying compensation for the loss concerned. No doubt tens or even hundreds of millions will be involved not just now, but no doubt in future scandals involving blood supplies.

Selling the national blood supplier to a company like Bain Capital was not an ethical move in the first place. Bain Capital was previously owned lock, stock and barrel by US presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Bain was fined $54million to “settle a class action lawsuit alleging that the Boston firm and several other major private equity firms colluded to keep rivals from outbidding them on giant buyout deals.” Some of the plaintiffs include retirement systems for police and firefighters.

Romney himself was shrouded in another scandal. As Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi reported – the GOP presidential candidate and his private equity firm staged an epic wealth grab, destroyed jobs – and stuck others with the bill.

You can see the dots connecting. Rich guy buys and sells important national systems designed to support citizens, makes millions, walks away leaving the shortfall to the taxpayer. Richard Branson is the same, so is Philip Green. As Matt Taibbi once famously wrote about these people and the banks that support them, they are a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

And it’s not like we had no evidence of what was to come. Up to 30,000 Canadians were infected with hepatitis C and 2,000 with HIV from the same contaminated blood products. It is estimated that 8,000 Canadians have lost their lives as a result. The blood funnel is abut to privaitise their blood supply system too. You can read about that awful crime HERE where the inquiry was nearly stifled by a government cover-up and where compensation payments have been stalled.

The point being here that there are multiple scandals involved in the contamination of blood supplies that has led to thousands having their lives destroyed – by the vested interests of rampant profiteers. This is a good example of anarchy by the rich and powerful.

Surely we need something better.

 

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