Chapter 5: Medical evidence: the testimony of the dead

Blood alcohol levels in survivors

2.5.115 It was known that blood alcohol levels were tested in those who died, because of the prominence given to the results during the mini-inquests.  It has not been previously recognised that blood alcohol levels were tested in at least some of the survivors, but this is the implication of some of the material disclosed to the Panel. 

2.5.116 The most clear-cut evidence is a document among medical papers headed 'In strict confidence',[41] continuing 'Blood Alcohol concentrations in samples taken from patients admitted to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital following the Hillsborough Disaster'.  There follows a list of 11 names (redacted as confidential medical information) and/or 'Majax Numbers'[42] and the corresponding blood alcohol levels, which were all 'not detected' bar two.

2.5.117 The same set of documents also contains some text apparently intended to be put onto 'acetates' for overhead projection.[43] Under the heading 'ALCOHOL', the text notes the numbers of deceased with alcohol levels of over 80mg/100ml (15) and over 120mg/100ml (6).  The text continues: 'FEW OF THOSE ADMITTED HAD APPRECIABLE LEVELS'.

2.5.118 It is clear from these disclosed documents that blood alcohol levels were tested in some of those taken to the Sheffield hospitals. Two questions arise: for what reason were these tests carried out, and how extensive was the testing? 

2.5.119 The individual hospital notes disclosed to the Panel are not of direct help.  The only notes that contain reference to blood alcohol are those of a person who survived for two days before dying.  Both the laboratory report, naming the pathologist who conducted the post mortem, and the relevant preliminary hearing transcript ('Yes, blood alcohol, this was done on a specimen taken at the time the patient was admitted'[44]) suggest that this test was carried out after death on a blood sample taken for another purpose on admission. 

2.5.120 No other medical notes that were traced contained reference to blood alcohol testing, or any reference to the results, including the notes of those identified in the list of 'Blood Alcohol concentrations in samples taken from patients admitted to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital following the Hillsborough Disaster'.

2.5.121 The absence of reference to blood alcohol testing in the medical notes does not help to clarify how extensively this testing was carried out, but it is of concern.  If these tests were done as part of clinical care - for example to indicate whether alcohol consumption might have contributed to reduced consciousness levels - the results should have been filed in the notes. 

2.5.122 Further, the notes of some of those identified in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital list, where available, show no medical reason to test blood alcohol levels.  The list includes individuals who were fully conscious and orientated, were suffering only from minor injuries, and were not admitted to hospital.

2.5.123 The Panel was concerned to trace all relevant documents that might explain why blood alcohol levels were taken and in how many people. No further information has been disclosed but the decision remains contentious and disturbing.

[41] File labelled 'AC Crosby', undated, JWR000000250001, p1.
[42] 'Majax Numbers': consecutive identifying numbers given to casualties resulting from a major incident on arrival at hospital, pending subsequent confirmation of identity.
[43] File labelled 'Hillsborough Reports', undated, JWR000000220001, p1.
[44] Inquest transcript, 1 May 1990, SYC000109960001, p8.