THE public inquiry into how hundreds of Scottish NHS patients contracted Hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood has already cost almost £9 million before the final report by Lord Penrose has even been completed.

The figure has prompted Holyrood's justice convener, Christine Grahame, to say a way must be found to streamline such inquiries to get the costs down.

"We should be looking at having a system that finds answers to the lessons that have to be learned but looks to keep costs down in this day and age," she said.

Ms Grahame suggested that one answer might involve replacing full-scale public inquiries with judicial inquiries with narrower remits. .

The inquiry into blood contamination affecting hundreds of patients in the 1970s and 1980s was called by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon in April 2008, having been rejected by the previous administration.

It was chaired by senior judge Lord Penrose, supported by a senior QC, three junior counsel, a solicitor, deputy solicitor, a secretary on secondment from the Civil Service, a deputy secretary, a witness liaison manager, document and evidence manager and deputy manager, and a medical assessor.

The cost emerged in a parliamentary answer from SNP MSP Gil Paterson asking about the interim cost of the Penrose Inquiry. Ms Sturgeon replied: "The interim cost of the Inquiry from January 12, 2009 to March 31, 2012 is £8,788,901.

"A final figure for the total cost of the Penrose Inquiry will be published when the Inquiry has completed its work."

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "This cost does raise questions about finding ways to get to the bottom of such issues in a more efficient, streamlined way."