Newsletter uses FoI Act to turn the spotlight on CJD cases in Armthorpe

By Sarah Lagan

A free community newspaper has used the Freedom of Information Act
to uncover the background to a Creutzfeldt-Jakobs Disease outbreak
which claimed the lives of four victims in the area more than five
years ago.

The Armthorpe Community Newsletter, which goes out to 6,000 households in Doncaster, dedicated eight pages to its FoI findings.

It branded the official public inquiry into the outbreak an “astonishing sham of an investigation”.

Using
the FoI Act the Newsletter discovered that one of the vCJD victims was
a blood donor, but seven people who were given his blood were unaware
of the fact until last September.

The paper said it also found
that health authorities did not report that the fourth victim was
linked to the Armthorpe case; that only four meetings had taken place
during the whole investigation; and the specialist leading the inquiry
said there had been a muddle in which all the paperwork had been
temporarily mislaid.

The paper has demanded a public apology, an explanation and a reinves- – tigation of the outbreak.

A
public inquiry was originally launched by the old Doncaster Area Health
Authority, now the East Doncaster Primary Care Trust, the Doncaster
Council and the National CJD Surveillance Unit to establish the source
of the outbreak.

The inquiry failed to track down the butcher
linked to the outbreak as the business had ceased trading. However, the
Newsletter claims to have found the butcher in five minutes by calling
a local historian.

Editor Jim Oldfield said: “How can they say it
was a full investigation when they couldn’t even track down the butcher
who supplied the meat? We found him in five minutes. They also said
they couldn’t trace the meat supply back to the abattoir as they had
gone out of business.”

A spokesman from East Doncaster PCT said
that despite the newspaper having tracked down the butcher, “nothing
much else” could be done with the information.

Tony Baxter,
director of public health at the Doncaster East PCT, sent a letter to
the paper saying its story had “caused unnecessary alarm and distress
to the people of Armthorpe and to therelatives of those who died”.

Baxter added: “There has never been any attempt to cover up any of the issues surrounding the cases of vCJD.”

Baxter
said the investigation had been “very thorough” and denied claims that
paperwork was mislaid. He said it would not be reopened unless
significant new evidence emerged.

Oldfield said: “I completely refute that I have caused unnecessary alarm.

Everyone
I have spoken to said we have done a great job and that it needed to
come out. The families can’t rest until they have some answers.”


The father of the victim who donated his blood has contacted the Mail
on Sunday and accused the medical authorities of engaging in a
conspiracy to hide the fact that his son had been a blood donor and
said he wanted another public inquiry to be launched immediately.

Dr
Ken Allen, the consultant leading the Armthorpe investigation, in
Communicable Disease Control in Doncaster, said: “It was national
policy to not pass on information to blood recipients, so our hands
were tied. You have to consider what impact it might have had on these
people. It could have ruined their lives.”

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