Infected blood scandal – 72 died from contaminated drug at single school

Treloar College in Hampshire where pupils with haemophilia were given a drug contaminated with HIV

A PUBLIC inquiry yesterday heard from students and parents after more than 120 ex pupils at a school for disabled children were caught up in what has been called the worst treatment disaster in NHS history.

From 1974 to 1987, those children were offered treatment for haemophilia at Treloar’s College in Hampshire.

But at least 72 died after being given a drug contaminated with HIV and viral hepatitis.

However, Treloar’s is just one horrific example of what happened. 3,891 others died around the country.

‘We’ve lost so many friends from Treloar’s and it’s absolutely heartbreaking,’ said Richard Warwick, a pupil there in the late 1970s who was later diagnosed with HIV.

The inquiry into the use of infected blood began taking evidence from people connected to the school yesterday.

Former headmaster, Alec Macpherson, was one of those due to answer questions. ‘It caused those boys a lot of anxiety and a lot of upset,’ he told the BBC ahead of the hearing.

‘It put a rage inside them – why me, why has this happened to me, why have I got this dreadful disease?’

Treloar’s College was a boarding school for physically disabled children with a specialist NHS haemophilia centre on site, run by a dedicated medical team.

By the mid 1970s, a new treatment for haemophilia, known as factor VIII/IX, became available for the first time.

It meant those with a serious form of the blood disorder could live a normal life without the risk of a bleed.

The NHS was not self-sufficient in the blood plasma used to make the drug so it was imported from overseas, most notably from the United States.

But batches were widely contaminated with hepatitis A, B, C and later HIV, infecting thousands of haemophiliacs across the UK.

Ade Goodyear joined Treloar’s in 1980 at the age of 10. He described life as ‘wonderful’ with supportive teachers, nurses and good friends.

Like dozens of others at the school, he was given factor VIII to help control his bleeding.

‘With one of my very first shots, I got hepatitis and was placed in isolation for two weeks,’ he said.

In 1985 he was taken into a small office with a group of other boys to be told he had tested positive for HIV – then a newly discovered virus with no known treatment and a short life expectancy.

‘The doctor was upset and pointed at us and said, you have it, and you haven’t. And I was back in science by 1.50pm. I didn’t even get the afternoon off,’ he said.

‘A friend of mine picked up a pot plant and threw it against the wall of the haemophilia centre. It was a beautiful summer’s day and I remember thinking, how many more sunrises like this am I going to see?’

Ade’s two older brothers died after treatment with factor VIII – Jason from AIDS in 1997 and Gary from health problems linked to hepatitis C in 2015.

For pupils like Ade and Richard it meant living with the stigma of what was then a little-known disease.

Students were followed by newspaper reporters outside the school gates who shouted questions at them about their HIV status.

Just 32 of the 122 haemophiliacs who attended the school from 1974 to 1987 are still alive today. Most died after contracting HIV or viral hepatitis.

It is hoped the public inquiry will be able to answer questions about what happened at Treloar’s and the NHS haemophiliac centre run from the site.