Infected blood report due decades after victims began campaigning for justice

Victims of the infected blood scandal have described feeling “emotional and nervous” as the final report into the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS is due to be published.

The Infected Blood Inquiry will conclude on Monday after decades of “tireless” work by campaigners.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is widely expected to issue an apology following the publication of the report, which will lay bare the scale of the failings.

Tens of thousands of people in the UK were infected with deadly viruses after they were given contaminated blood and blood products between the 1970s and early 1990s.

These include people who needed blood transfusions for accidents, in surgery or during childbirth, and patients with certain blood disorders who were treated with donated blood plasma products or blood transfusions.

Some 3,000 people have died and others have been left with lifelong health complications after being infected with viruses including hepatitis C and HIV.

It has been estimated that one person dies as a result of infected blood every four days.

The inquiry was first announced by former prime minister Theresa May in 2017, with the first official hearing held on April 20 2019.

It is one of the largest UK public inquiries.

Some 374 people have given oral evidence, and the inquiry has received more than 5,000 witness statements and reviewed more than 100,000 documents.

The chairman of the inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, has previously said that “wrongs were done at individual, collective and systemic levels”.

INQUIRY Blood
(PA Graphics)

Campaigners have hailed the publication of the report as the “end of a 40-year fight”.

Suresh Vaghela, of Leicester, said he was feeling “nervous” ahead of the final report.

The 61-year-old started receiving contaminated Factor VIII blood product to treat his haemophilia when he was around 13 years old, and was told when he started university in 1983 that he had HIV and had two months to live.

In the early 1990s, he discovered he had also been infected with hepatitis C.

“We feel emotional at the moment in the sense that it’s like a 40-year-old fight, and it’s coming to an end and we’ve come to the end of our energy levels,” he told the PA news agency.

Mr Vaghela said he wanted a “meaningful apology”, decent compensation and for pharmaceutical companies “to pay for what they’ve done”.

Rosamund Cooper, a former IT consultant, said she was “really optimistic” for the inquiry’s final report, but that there is “no certainty” as to how the Government will react.

Rosamund Cooper with her brother Paul Batten in the 1980s (Handout/PA)
Rosamund Cooper with her brother Paul Batten in the 1980s (Handout/PA)

The 50-year-old, from  Dudley, was diagnosed with Von Willebrand disease, a bleeding disorder, when she was eight months old.

When she was 19, she found out she had been infected with hepatitis C as a result of her treatment.

“I do genuinely think that the report will vindicate all of the struggles that we’ve been through,” Ms Cooper said.

Rachel Halford, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, said: “We would not be where we are today without the community’s decades of tireless campaigning for answers.

“We hope that today’s report marks the beginning of the end of this long campaign for justice for everyone who has been impacted by infected blood and blood products.”

Kate Burt, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: “Radical change must result from this inquiry if we are to learn the lessons of the past and protect future generations from harm.”

INQUIRY Blood
(PA Graphics)

Richard Angell, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “The publication of the final Infected Blood Inquiry report is a seismic moment for those infected and affected by this scandal who have been vindicated but not yet compensated.

“For victims of the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS, who have been fighting for justice for almost five decades, the trauma never stops.”

Paymaster General John Glen told Good Morning Britain on Monday that he would speak more about compensation “imminently, but not today”.

He told Times Radio: “The community have spoken very clearly to the Government on that and that’s why we’re holding back on that compensation matter today.”

Campaigners have been told that the compensation package from the Government will be more than £10 billion.

Some members of the infected blood community expect that ministers will announce so-called “tariffs” for compensation in the near future.

This could include how much people in certain groups are paid as compensation.

MP Dame Diana Johnson, who has been campaigning on behalf of victims for almost two decades, told BBC Breakfast on Monday morning that in other countries such as France, ministers have been brought before the courts for prosecution.

“My concern is this has taken so very long to get to this point, some of the key players in this may well now have sadly died, so we’ll have to wait and see,” she said.

“But I’m hoping the police will be looking at what Sir Brian says and whether there is evidence that people will be prosecuted, if that is possible, after all this time.

“There has to be accountability for the actions that were taken, even if it was 30, 40, 50 years ago.”

Earlier, she told PA: “I am really hopefully that Sir Brian, having heard six years of evidence, will give some answers to the questions that the people infected and their families have had about how this was allowed to happen, who knew what, and whether accountability can be apportioned.

“Also I think it is acknowledgement that wrongs were done. In Sir Brian’s second interim report last year, he said: ‘Wrongs were done on an individual, collective and systemic level,’ and they were compounded by the behaviour of governments over decades, refusing to acknowledge that anything had been done that was wrong. That now has to be acknowledged and there has to be redress for that.”

Des Collins, senior partner at Collins Solicitors, which represents 1,500 victims, said the importance of the final report to victims of the scandal “cannot be overestimated”.

“They have spent years bravely telling their stories, campaigning and spurring collective action in order to get to this point. For some it has been 40 years since their lives were forever blighted or loved ones were lost in cruel circumstances,” he said.

“Several thousands, sadly, have not lived to see this day.”

Mr Collins described the publication of the report as the “day of truth”, adding: “They will finally achieve recognition of all they have experienced and will learn, as a matter of public record, how and why the infected blood scandal occurred.”

Speaking ahead of the final report, a Government spokesperson said: “This was an appalling tragedy that never should have happened.

“We are clear that justice needs to be done and swiftly, which is why we have acted in amending the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

“This includes establishing a new body to deliver an Infected Blood Compensation Scheme, confirming the Government will make the required regulations for it within three months of royal assent, and that it will have all the funding needed to deliver compensation once they have identified the victims and assessed claims.

“In addition, we have included a statutory duty to provide additional interim payments to the estates of deceased infected people.

“We will continue to listen carefully to the community as we address this dreadful scandal.”