Hospital study on CJD 'was stifled'

November 11, 2001 Sunday Times (London) by David Cracknell and Lois Rogers
AN expert commissioned by the government to investigate the risk of hospital patients developing CJD - the human form of mad cow disease - from contaminated instruments claims he was ordered to suppress his findings, write David Cracknell and Lois Rogers.

David Hurrell, a former senior government microbiologist who now runs an independent consultancy, was told to keep secret the "somewhat negative outcome" of his investigations. Hospitals routinely reuse instruments to save money.

The poor standard of hospital surgical decontamination that Hurrell uncovered is the subject of a BBC Panorama programme to be broadcast tonight. Hurrell told the programme he was shocked and disgusted by the government attitude. He described sterilisation procedures at most hospitals as "barely adequate".

He had expected his report to be published last year. Instead, Hurrell received a letter from Katie Priestley, chief executive of NHS Estates, warning: "In the light of the somewhat negative outcome, there is a need to ensure at the express request of ministers that the reports remain strictly confidential."

John Collinge, director of the prion research unit at Imperial College, London, found in a study to be published this week that a metal instrument had to be in contact with infected tissue for just five minutes to become contaminated.

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