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

20 May 2024, 14:25 | Updated: 20 May 2024, 15:10

Infected blood campaigners meeting in Parliament Square ahead of the publication of the report into the scandal
Infected blood campaigners meeting in Parliament Square ahead of the publication of the report into the scandal. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

More than 30,000 people were infected with HIV and hepatitis C after blood collected from prisons was administered to patients in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Some 3,000 people are known to have died - as well as many more who were unaware they contracted hepatitis C.

A public inquiry has now been published today on the scandal, concluding that the treatment disaster could and should have been largely avoided.

It said that patients were knowingly exposed to "unacceptable risks", and accused the government, the NHS, and healthcare professionals of trying to cover up what happened.

Victims are campaigning for billions of pounds in compensation.

Campaigners outside Central Hall in Westminster, London, after the publication of the Infected Blood Inquiry report, Monday
Campaigners outside Central Hall in Westminster, London, after the publication of the Infected Blood Inquiry report, Monday. Picture: Alamy

Read More: ‘He had aids but they kept it from us’: Parents tell of hell as scale of infected blood cover-up revealed

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

Who are the victims of the scandal?

Tens of thousands had their lives put at risk by blood transfusions or treatments for haemophilia, a rare genetic blood-clotting condition.

In the 1970s, haemophilia patients were generally administered with donated human blood plasma, replacing clotting agents.

Entire batches of the blood plasma were contaminated with deadly viruses but administered to patients.

Approximately 1,250 people with bleeding disorders went on to develop HIV and hepatitis C, including 380 children.

Two-thirds died from AIDS-related illnesses, and some unwillingly gave HIV to their partners.

Another 2,400 to 5,000 people with haemophilia developed Hepatitis C independently, which can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Blood transfusion patients were also given contaminated blood between 1970 and 1991.

According to the inquiry, between 80 and 100 were infected with HIV, and about 27,000 with Hepatitis C. It's estimated that 2,900 blood transfusion patients have died due to the contamination.

Demonstrators highlight the plight of tens of thousands affected by contaminated blood, Monday
Demonstrators highlight the plight of tens of thousands affected by contaminated blood, Monday. Picture: Alamy

What did the infected blood inquiry find?

There was a "subtle, pervasive and chilling" cover-up of the infected blood scandal, according to the final report from the years-long inquiry.

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 Advisory Committee on the Virological Safety of Blood (ACVSB), were marked for destruction in 1993.

The report also explored the destruction and disappearance of medical records from hospitals, GPs and health boards.

It told of the "emotional toll" people went through trying to obtain records, making reference to a woman who described trying to get her late father's medical records as "like a battle of wills".

The lack of medical records has made it difficult for some to apply for compensation.

When will victims be compensated?

Those infected have so far been given annual financial support from the government, but a final compensation deal is yet to be put in place.

The government made payments of £100,000 each to around 4,000 surviving victims and some bereaved partners in late 2022, on the advice of the inquiry.

Sir Brian then called on interim compensation to be offered to the children and parents of those infected in April 2023.

Speaking earlier today, Paymaster General John Glen confirmed the compensation package for victims would not be announced today,

Mr Glen told LBC that he would not confirm the reported £10 billion compensation figure. Campaigners say they have been told that the compensation package from the Government will exceed the £10 billion figure.

"Today it's about actually coming to terms with the British state being culpable for a lot of suffering for a lot of people," he said.

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