Governments and NHS carried out ‘chilling cover-up’ of infected blood scandal, bombshell report reveals

20 May 2024, 12:31 | Updated: 20 May 2024, 12:39

  • Five-year investigation accuses doctors, the government and NHS of trying to cover-up infected blood scandal
  • Tens of thousands of people given contaminated blood and blood products between the 1970s and early 1990s.
  • Deliberate decision to destroy crucial paperwork
  • Children were used as "objects for research" at Lord Mayor Treloar College in 70s and 80s
  • Inquiry chair calls for compensation scheme to be set up now
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.
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. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The public inquiry into the infected blood scandal has found evidence of a cover-up by the NHS and successive governments which sought to hide the truth of the disaster.

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Patients were knowingly exposed to the risks of infections of HIV and Hepatitis B and C, which were known well before most patients were treated and the disaster could have and should have been avoided, according to to the findings of the inquiry, chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff.

Sir Brian Langstaff, said in the report: "Standing back, and viewing the response of the NHS and of government overall, the answer to the question 'was there a cover-up' is that there has been.

"Not in the sense of a handful of people plotting in an orchestrated conspiracy to mislead, but in a way that was more subtle, more pervasive and more chilling in its implications.

ir Brian Langstaff (left) with victims and campaigners outside Central Hall in Westminster, London, after the publication of the Inquiry report
ir Brian Langstaff (left) with victims and campaigners outside Central Hall in Westminster, London, after the publication of the Inquiry report. Picture: Alamy

"In this way there has been a hiding of much of the truth."

The inquiry found documents were deliberately destroyed, and evidence central to the HIV litigation of 1989 was thin on the ground, and minutes and background papers from the Advisory Committee on the Virological Safety of Blood (ACVSB) were lost or destroyed with no explanation.

A van bearing images of victims outside Central Hall in Westminster, London
A van bearing images of victims outside Central Hall in Westminster, London. Picture: Alamy

According to the report, there was a deliberate decision to destroy Department of Health files which contained material dealing with delays in the introduction of screening blood donations for hepatitis C.

The files, which related to decision-making of the ACVSB, were marked for destruction in 1993.

"The destruction was not an accident, nor the result of flood, fire or vermin," Sir Brian wrote.

"The immediate reason for destruction was human choice. Someone, for some reason, had chosen to have those documents destroyed."

Sir Brian Langstaff meets with victims and campaigners as the report into the infected blood scandal is published
Sir Brian Langstaff meets with victims and campaigners as the report into the infected blood scandal is published. Picture: Alamy

Research was conducted on patients with haemophilia, including children, without their knowledge or consent.

Children at Treloar’s College, a specialist school for disabled young people where 75 people died, were treated with multiple, riskier, commercial concentrates in a ‘preventative’ manner when it was not necessary, and they were used as objects for research.

The inquiry also found a litany of failures from government, which had full knowledge from early 1975 that blood was being collected from prisoners in almost all transfusion centres in the UK, but there was no action taken to stop or even discourage it.

Successive governments refused to admit responsibility and showed little interest in finding the truth by listening to those infected and taking action - in order to save face and save money.

Inquiry chair Sir Brian Langstaff said the chief responsibility lies with successive governments, and a compensation scheme must be set up now.

He said it was wrong for the government to insist on waiting for the final publication of this report to provide a proper response.

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.

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