Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Today, the Inquiry concluded the evidence of David Watters.

Counsel referred back to the internal 1989 DHSS document where Mr Watters had suggested a sum for settlement for those with AIDS. A document was shown from prior to this of a meeting of someone from the department with Mr Watters and others from the Haemophilia Society. The Society’s view in this meeting was interest in an out of court settlement and put forward 120 million as an appropriate settlement. Mr Watters said this sum would have been a suggestion of a ballpark figure and the later document where he had suggested 86 million also would have been. He said these figures would have been based on what the group of lawyers had suggested. The government’s position from the meeting was they could not concede liability and the figures in mind were very high. Mr Watters agreed that the impression this gave was that the government was discouraging expecting too much.

A document from the Secretary of State for Social Services from November 1987 regarded the Haemophilia Society’s campaign notion that the problem was due to the government’s failure of self sufficiency was difficult to refute convincingly. Two options were suggested; a lump sum to each affected person from a 10 million fund or a lump sum to the Haemophilia Society to administer on individual need. It noted a preference for the second option as it minimised government intervention and responsibility.

The issue of campaigning for compensation for those affected by hepatitis C was discussed. An Executive Committee meeting in January 1990 referred to Mr Watters writing a report to look into the number of people who had suffered severe liver damage. Mr Watters wrote to Dr Rizza to help with this, Counsel inquired why Dr Rizza would be asked as he might be on the opposite side in litigation. Mr Watters explained Dr Rizza was custodian of the Central Registrar of people with haemophilia in the UK so he wanted his help to determine the scope of the problem. At a Policy Committee meeting in June, it was said the Society was neither for nor against pursuing compensation for people infected.

At an Executive Committee meeting in November 1991, it was said the project team who were looking into the hepatitis campaign potential concluded it should not be a major concern for the Society. It noted the Society was in danger of creating concern and worry and the publicity would be out of proportion to the threat. In February 1992, Mr Watters proposed the project team be resurrected because of new developments. Mr Watters, when asked about this change of view said it was a very fast moving time.  Mr Watters said in terms of campaigning for those with hepatitis, he thinks the Society responded to the information and research they received.

Mr Watters’ witness statement was referred to, where he noted in hindsight the Society may not have pursued campaigning for those with hepatitis with the enthusiasm they should have. He recalled the Committee had to be careful not to portray people with haemophilia as people who were always asking for more. Mr Watters said this view would be based on advice received from their political advisors. Mr Watters said the Society did not give advice to members individually seeking court settlements, they did not give advice to things that were between a lawyer and client. He said the Society were shocked by the waiver litigants were asked to sign in 1991 on not seeking further action against the government, but felt it was up to lawyers to deal with. On the Macfarlane Trust, Mr Watters confirmed he was not a trustee but attended various meetings. He said the relationship of the Haemophilia Society with the Trust was not a totally happy and cooperative relationship, they were an independent organisation.

Mr Watters spoke to the Inquiry of the involvement of pharmaceutical companies with the Haemophilia Society. Mr Watters confirmed they would provide funding for publications such as The Bulletin. Mr Watters said there was an understanding the funding would not impact the content of publications. He agreed pharmaceutical companies were a regular source of donations noted in meetings, members would be informed of donations in annual reports. Mr Watters said he views the motivation of companies was to help the small and struggling charitable organisation. A Society publication was shown with the Alpha logo and a detailed article on Alpha. He conceded this might imply to members some approval of the company. Mr Watters said pharmaceutical companies did provide merchandise events and funded attending international conferences. Attention was given to a report written by Mr Watters in 1989 where he noted Armour were in the business of improving their public image. Mr Watters emphasized that the receipt of donations from Pharmaceutical companies did not alter advice to members, advice on products to use was entirely the role of clinicians.

Counsel referred to the opinion raised earlier in the week by Mr Watters that Concentrate had caused a dramatic rise in life expectancy. Mr Watters agreed that hypothetically if the Society thought Cryoprecipitate was the cause of the dramatic rise in life expectancy, policy may have taken a different course. Mr Watters had referred earlier in the week to there being supply issues of Cryoprecipitate, he said he could not recall the basis of this. Mr Watters was asked if the Society followed up on the potential of porcine concentrates being used as a partial solution. Mr Watter said his understanding was that porcine concentrate was of very limited supply.

Mr Watters agreed that Society membership tended to be those with severe haemophilia. He said the steps they took to try to increase membership was the availability of their publications in every Haemophilia Centre. In Mr Watters’ witness statement he noted he was convinced that no records were destroyed in his tenure but had a vague recollection of a phone call after his departure informing him documents had been destroyed.

Mr Watters was asked if the close alignment of the Society with Reference Centre Directors meant they failed to provide comprehensive and balanced advice to members. Mr Watters made it clear that he felt there was no other source of reliable information available to them in the first half of the 1980s. If they had been provided with different information, they would have responded differently. Mr Watters confirmed members of the Medical Advisory Panel were all treating clinicians with a big cohort. Sir Brian asked whether advice from virologists or epidemiologists were considered. Mr Watters said they certainly communicated with virologists and had articles by immunologists, but had neither on the panel.

Mr Watters concluded his evidence by thanking the Inquiry for their efforts. He spoke of the plight and injustice those affected still suffer. He said he personally regrets the things the Society got wrong and said they tried to do their best with what was available to them. He noted that he believes there was a systemic failure by successive governments in not becoming self-sufficient and the government is in enormous debt to those who have suffered

 

COVID-19 

Wales has now moved to Alert Level Zero. However, we remain cautious and still require you to wear a mask when entering the building and to follow all of our safety precautions to minimise the risk of exposure to Coronavirus.

Go to our CoVid 19 page for more information.