Witnesses to give evidence over blood scandal

The families of NHS patients who died after being infected by contaminated blood say they hope lessons will be learned from the inquiry into the scandal.

Witnesses will begin giving evidence today in the Penrose Inquiry, set up two years ago to establish how hundreds of people in Scotland were given contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s.

Before the first day of hearings got under way in Edinburgh, a solicitor spoke on behalf of victims' relatives who said they wanted "no person or family" to suffer as they had.

Patrick McGuire of Thompsons Solicitors said in a statement he read out on the steps of the inquiry venue: "HIV and Hepatitis C have had a devastating effect on the lives of the victims.

"They have experienced social stigma, financial hardship and their infection has impacted heavily on the lives of their families.

"The fact that everyone whom I represent in relation to the Penrose Inquiry was infected through the acts and omissions of the NHS makes the tragedy of their plight so much more profound."

He went on: "Victims and their families want truth, honesty and a positive outcome for the future from this inquiry and are committed to playing their part to achieve that outcome.

"Most of all, they want lessons to be learned in order that no person or family will have to suffer in the way they have."

Lord Penrose will look at how the NHS collected, treated and supplied blood and will also hear what patients were told, how they were monitored and why patients became infected.

Those scheduled to address the inquiry include victims' relatives, hepatologists and representatives from the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS).

The inquiry opened in March 2009 with a minute's silence for all those who died from infected blood products.

Lord Penrose has said no individuals or institutions will be held criminally liable as a result of the inquiry.

He told the inquiry that "actions and failures" may be identified, but added: "Neither of those matters will involve finding individuals or institutions legally liable to penalties, or for damages or for breach of duty in a legal sense."