'This is a day of shame': Rishi Sunak apologises ‘wholeheartedly’ for infected blood scandal after 'chilling' report

20 May 2024, 17:32 | Updated: 20 May 2024, 18:20

Rishi Sunak has apologised for the infected blood scandal.
Rishi Sunak has apologised for the infected blood scandal. Picture: Alamy/Parliament TV

By Jenny Medlicott

Rishi Sunak has apologised for the infected blood scandal, as he said it's a 'day of shame for the British state' after the inquiry’s report found there was a ‘chilling’ cover-up.

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Speaking in Parliament on Monday afternoon, the Prime Minister said: "I want to make a wholehearted and unequivocal apology for this terrible injustice.

"First to apologise for the failure in blood policy and blood products and the devastating so often fatal impact this had on so many lives" alongside the “mismanagement of the response to the emergence of AIDS and hepatitis viruses amongst infected blood victims".

Secondly, he apologised for the “repeated failure of the state and our medical professionals to recognise the harm caused".

He also apologised for the “the institutional failure to face up to these failings, and worse, to deny, and even attempt to cover them up” and the “appalling length of time it took to secure the public inquiry".

"This is an apology from the state to every single person impacted by this scandal."

In the lead up to his apology, Mr Sunak said: "This is a day of shame for the British state.

"Today's report shows a decades-long moral failure at the heart of our national life, from the National Health Service to the Civil Service, to ministers in successive governments, at every level that people and institutions in which we place our trust failed in the most harrowing and devastating way.

“This should have been avoided, it was known these treatments were contaminated, warnings were ignored repeatedly.

Read more: The school where dozens died: Only 30 of 122 boys at Treloar College are alive after experiments with infected blood

Read more: What is the infected blood scandal, who is responsible, and will victims be compensated?

The report was published on Monday.
The report was published on Monday. Picture: Alamy

"Time and again, people in positions of power and trust had the chance to stop the transmission of those infections.

"Time and again, they failed to do so."

Mr Sunak promised to pay "comprehensive compensation" to those affected and infected by the scandal.

He said: "I make two solemn promises. First, we will pay comprehensive compensation to those infected and those affected by this scandal, accepting the principles recommended by the Inquiry which builds on the work of Sir Robert Francis.

"Whatever it costs to deliver this scheme, we will pay it and my right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office will set out the details tomorrow.

"Second, it is not enough to say 'sorry', pay long-overdue compensation, and then attempt to move on. There can be no moving on from a report that is so devastating in its criticism.

He also told MPs: "Sir Brian finds a catalogue of systemic, collective and individual failures - each on its own serious, and taken together amounting to a calamity.

"And the result of this inquiry should shake our nation to its core. This should have been avoided. It was known these treatments were contaminated, warnings were ignored repeatedly.

"Time and again people in positions of power and trust had the chance to stop the transmission of those infections. Time and again they failed to do so."

Responding to the Prime Minister, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also extended an apology to those affected by the scandal.

He said “we failed to protect some of the most vulnerable in our country”.

"Politics itself failed you," Sir Keir added.

"That includes my own party. There is only one word - sorry."

Rishi Sunak said it was a 'day of shame for the British state'.
Rishi Sunak said it was a 'day of shame for the British state'. Picture: Alamy

He also welcomed Rishi Sunak's confirmation that compensation will be paid, adding: "He should be under no doubt whatsoever that we will work with him to get that done swiftly.

"Because make no mistake the victims in this scandal have suffered unspeakably, thousands of people have died, they continue to die every week, lives completely shattered, evidence wilfully destroyed, victims marginalised, people watching their loved ones die, children used as objects of research - on and on it goes.

It comes after the final report, published on Monday, found that the treatment disaster could and should have been stopped after more than 30,000 people were infected with HIV and hepatitis C from 1970 to 1991 by contaminated blood products and transfusions.

The five-year investigation has also accused doctors, the government and NHS of attempting to cover up what took place.

Around 3,000 people have died in what has been called the biggest treatment disaster in NHS history, with victims campaigning for compensation for years.

Chairman of the inquiry, 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.

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

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